Posts tagged Ben Bernanke
By: Peter Schiff
Ben’s Rocket to Nowhere
Herd mentality can be as frustrating as it is inexplicable. Once a crowd starts moving, momentum can be all that matters and clear signs and warnings are often totally ignored. Financial markets are currently following this pattern with respect to the unshakable belief that the Federal Reserve is ready, willing, and most importantly, able, to immediately execute a wind down of its quantitative easing program. Although the release last week of the minutes of the Fed’s last policy meeting did not contain a shred of hard information about the certainty or timing of a “tapering” campaign, most observers read into it definitive proof that the Fed would jump into action by December or March at the latest. The herd is blissfully unaware that the Fed may not be able to reverse, or even slow, the course of QE without immediately sending the economy back into recession.
In an interview this week, outgoing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke likened the QE program to the first stage in a multiple stage rocket that gets the spacecraft off the ground and accelerates it to the point where it is close to achieving permanent orbit. Like a first stage that has spent its fuel and has become dead weight, Bernanke seems to concede that QE is no longer capable of providing positive thrust, and as a result can now be jettisoned (like a first stage) so that the remainder of the spacecraft/economy can now move higher and faster. The Chairman’s nifty metaphor provides some inspiring visuals, but is completely flawed in just about every way imaginable.
In real rocketry, when the first stage separates, it falls back to earth and is no longer a burden to the remainder of the ship. Subsequent booster rockets (which in economic terms Bernanke imagines would be continuation of zero interest rate policies) build on the gains made by the first stage. But the almost $4 trillion in assets that the Fed has accumulated as a result of the QE program will not simply vaporize into the stratosphere like a discarded rocket engine. In fact it will remain tethered to the rest of the economy with chains of solid lead.
In the process of accumulating the world’s largest cache of Treasuries, the Fed has become the most important player in that market. I believe the Fed can’t stop accumulating and dispose of its inventory without creating major market disruptions that will drag the economy down.
This would be true even if the economic rocket were actually approaching escape velocity. In reality, we are still sitting on the launch pad. By keeping interest rates far below market levels and by channeling newly created dollars directly into the financial markets, the QE program has resulted in major gains in the stock, real estate, and bond markets. Many have argued that all three are currently in bubble territory. Yet to the casual observer, these gains are proof of America’s surging economic vitality.
But things look very different on Main Street, where the employment picture has not kept pace with the rising prices of financial assets. The work force participation rate continues to shrink (recently falling back to levels last seen in 1978),real wages have declined, and since the end of 2009 the temporary workforce has grown at a pace that is 14 times faster than those with permanent jobs. Americans are driving less, vacationing less, and switching to lower quality products and services in order to deal with falling purchasing power. But the herd is closely watching the Fed’s rocket show and does not understand that stocks and housing will likely fall, and bond yields rise steeply, once the QE is removed. The crowd is similarly ignoring the significance of the Chinese announcement.
But while the Fed was gaining much attention by saying nothing, the Chinese made a blockbuster statement that was summarily ignored. Last week, a deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China said that buying foreign exchange reserves was now no longer in China’s national interest. The implication that China may no longer be accumulating U.S. government debt would amount to the “mother of all tapers” and could create a clear and present danger to the American economy. But the story barely rated a mention in the American media. Over the past decade or so, the People’s Bank of China has been one of the largest buyers of U.S. Treasuries (after various U.S. government entities that are essentially nationalizing U.S. debt). China currently sits on $1 trillion or more in U.S. bond obligations.
So, just as many expect that the #1 buyer of Treasuries (the Fed) will soon begin paring back its purchases, the top foreign holder may cease buying, thereby opening a second front in the taper campaign. This should cause any level-headed observer to conclude that the market for such bonds will fall dramatically, causing severe upward pressure on interest rates. But the possibility is not widely discussed.
Also left out of the discussion is the degree to which remaining private demand for Treasuries is a function of the Fed’s backstop (the Greenspan put, renewed by Bernanke, and expected to be maintained by Yellen). The ultra-low yields currently offered by long-term Treasuries are only acceptable to investors so long as the Fed removes the risk of significant price declines. If the private buyers, the Fed, China (and other central banks that may likely follow China’s lead) refuse to buy Treasuries, who will take on the slack? Absent the Fed’s backstop, prices will likely have to fall considerably to offer an acceptable risk/reward dynamic to investors. The problem is that any yield high enough to satisfy investors may be too high for the government or the economy to afford.
Little thought seems to be given to how the economy would react to 5% yields on 10 year Treasuries (a modest number in historical standards). The herd assumes that our stronger economy could handle such levels. In reality, 5% rates would likely deeply impact the financial sector, prick the bubbles in housing and stocks, blow a hole in the federal budget, and cause sizable losses in the value of the Fed’s bond holdings. These developments would require the Fed to devise a rocket with even more power than the one it is now thinking of discarding.
That is why when it comes to tapering, the Fed is all bark and no bite. In fact, toward the end of last week, Dennis Lockhart, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said that the Fed “won’t taper its bond-buying until the economy is ready.” He must know that the economy will never be ready. It’s like a drug addict claiming that he’ll stop using when he no longer needs them to stay high.
But the market understands none of this. Instead it is operating under dangerous delusions that are creating sky-high valuations for the latest social media craze, undermining the investment case for gold and other inflation hedges, and encouraging people to ignore growing risks that are hiding in plain sight.
This is not unusual in market history. When the spell is finally broken and markets wake up to reality, we will scratch our heads and wonder how we could ever have been so misguided.
Peter Schiff is the CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, best-selling author and host of syndicated Peter Schiff Show.
With all the fancy security features on the new $100 Bill….
….not one can stop the biggest counterfeiter on the face of the Earth!
Take a look at the list of security measures on the new $100 bill:
- Blue 3-D Security Ribbon
- Raised Printing
- Serial Numbers
- Bell Hiding in an Inkwell
- Portrait Watermark
- Security Thread
- New Color
- American Symbols of Freedom
- Federal Reserve Bank Indicator
- Printing Locator
Sadly, it’s missing one HUGE feature:
It’s not helicopter proof.
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Image credit: http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com
By Hunter Lewis
Cutting Through Ben Bernanke’s Double Talk
You’ll remember that he was going to make the Fed more “transparent.”
When Bernanke took the Fed on its latest round of “quantitative easing” (that is, money printing), he said that one of his objectives was to keep interest rates down. When rates nevertheless rose, he said that this was not all bad. When he just announced unexpectedly that the Fed would not “taper” the money printing, he said that the rise in interest rates actually was bad after all and one of the reasons the Fed had decided not to “taper.”
Behind all this double talk, however, there may be another factor of which Mr Bernanke and the Fed are saying nothing. Jim Grant’s Bank Credit Analyst currently reports that foreign central bank holdings of US government securities have been declining at a rate of -3.9% over the past three months and -1.2 over the past six months. It wasn’t very long ago that foreign central banks were printing their own currencies in order to buy large amounts of US government bonds.
It is possible, although not certain, that what is really driving US Fed policy is not the US unemployment rate, but rather a fear that the US bond market might collapse if the US government stopped buying bonds from itself.
About Hunter Lewis
Hunter Lewis is co-founder of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. He is the former CEO of Cambridge Associates and the author of 6 books. His most recent book is Where Keynes Went Wrong. He has served on boards and committees of fifteen not-for-profit organizations, including environmental, teaching, research, and cultural organizations, as well as the World Bank.
Image credit: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org
The U.S. Government Will Borrow Close To 4 Trillion Dollars This Year
When you add maturing debt to the new debt that the federal government is accumulating, the total is quite eye catching. You see, the truth is that the U.S. government must not only borrow enough money to fund government spending for this year, it must also “roll over” existing debt that has reached maturity. Of course the government never actually pays any of that debt off. Instead, it essentially takes out new debts to cover the old ones. So the U.S. government is actually borrowing far more money each year than most Americans realize.
For fiscal year 2013, the U.S. budget deficit will be about $845 billion, but on top of that the government will also have to borrow about 3 trillion dollars to pay off old debt that is maturing. Overall, the U.S. government will borrow close to 4 trillion dollars this year, and that number will likely be even higher next year. That is not going to cause a crisis as long as interest rates stay super low, but if interest rates begin to rise substantially, the game will change dramatically.
When the government borrows money, it has to pay it back someday. Back in the old days, the federal government used to issue lots of debt that would not mature for a very long time. But in recent years things have been very different…
In order to fund the government, the Treasury Department periodically auctions Treasury securities with various maturities ranging from 30-day Treasury bills to 30-year Treasury bonds, with 2-3-5-7-year and 10-year Treasury notes in between. It used to be that the bulk of Treasury borrowing was done in the longer-term instruments with maturities of at least 10 years.
In more recent years, however, this trend has shifted more toward shorter-term Treasury securities. There are pros and cons to both strategies. Generally speaking, the shorter maturities are considered more risky since short-term interest rates can vary frequently. Shorter-term maturities obviously have to be rolled over much more often. That raises the risk that there might not be enough buyers when the government needs them.
At this point, the average maturity of outstanding government debt is only 65 months, and only about 10 percent of all Treasury debt matures outside of a decade.
So what does that mean?
It means that the federal government must constantly roll over massive amounts of debt. Once again, this is not too much of a problem as long as interest rates stay super low, but as John Cochrane pointed out, if rates start rising back to “normal” levels things could get quite hairy very quickly…
Here’s the nightmare scenario: Suppose that four years from now, interest rates rise 5 percent, i.e. back to normal, and the US has $20 trillion outstanding. Interest costs alone will rise $1 trillion (5% of $20 trillion) – doubling already unsustainable deficits! This is what happened to Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Don’t think it can’t happen to us. It’s even more likely, because fear of inflation – which did not hit them, since they are on the Euro – can hit us.
Sadly, those running things appears to be quite clueless. For example, retiring U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann recently asked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke why the national debt has remained frozen in place for 56 straight days even though we have been borrowing lots of money. Bernanke seemed to have no idea how to answer that question…
As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday, Bachmann asked how there could be no increase reported in the total debt when the government is racking up about $4 billion a day in new debt.
“After nearly 10 years as the head of the Federal Reserve, Chairman Bernanke could not answer my question today in Financial Services Committee,” Bachmann told WND.
She wondered if there’s a political motive.
“I asked whether the Treasury Department was cooking the federal government’s books as it was reported that the Feds debt balance sheet remained at $16,699,396,000,000 for 56 days straight, presumably so the Treasury Department wouldn’t officially register that once again the Congress had exceeded its legal borrowing limits.”
For the moment, the federal government is able to recklessly borrow and spend money and investors are rewarding this behavior with super low interest rates.
Unfortunately, this state of affairs is completely and totally unsustainable. At some point global financial markets will begin to behave rationally, and when that happens it is going to mean a tremendous amount of pain for the United States.
Over the past decade, the U.S. government has added more than 11 trillion dollars to the national debt at a time when the U.S. economy has been steadily declining. Anyone that thinks that we can continue to pile up more debt like this indefinitely does not know what they are talking about.
The following are some more statistics about the U.S. national debt for you to consider…
-Back in 1980, the U.S. national debt was less than one trillion dollars. Today, it is rapidly approaching 17 trillion dollars.
-During Obama’s first term, the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.
-The U.S. national debt is now more than 23 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.
-If you started paying off just the new debt that the U.S. has accumulated during the Obama administration at the rate of one dollar per second, it would take more than 184,000 years to pay it off.
-If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.
-If you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.
-Some suggest that “taxing the rich” is the answer. Well, if Bill Gates gave every single penny of his entire fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.
Tapering the Taper Talk
As usual the Federal Reserve media reaction machine has fallen for a poorly executed head fake. It has fallen for this move many times in the past, and for its efforts, it has tackled nothing but air. Yet right on cue, it took the bait once more. Somehow the takeaway from Wednesday’s release of the June Fed statement and Chairman Ben Bernanke’s press conference was that the central bank is likely to begin scaling back, or “tapering,” its $85 billion per month quantitative easing program sometime later this year, and that the program may be completely wound down by the middle of next year.
Farewell Bernanke – Thanks For Inflating The Biggest Bond Bubble The World Has Ever Seen
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is on the way out the door, but the consequences of the bond bubble that he has helped to create will stay with us for a very, very long time. During Bernanke’s tenure, interest rates on U.S. Treasuries have fallen to record lows. This has enabled the U.S. government to pile up an extraordinary amount of debt. During his tenure we have also seen mortgage rates fall to record lows. All of this has helped to spur economic activity in the short-term, but what happens when interest rates start going back to normal? If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will suddenly be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt. And remember, there have been times in the past when the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt has been much higher than that.
In addition, when the U.S. government starts having to pay more to borrow money so will everyone else. What will that do to home sales and car sales? And of course we all remember what happened to adjustable rate mortgages when interest rates started to rise just prior to the last recession. We have gotten ourselves into a position where the U.S. economy simply cannot afford for interest rates to go up. We have become addicted to the cheap money made available by a grossly distorted financial system, and we have Ben Bernanke to thank for that. The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of the economic problems that we are facing in America, and this time is certainly no exception.
This week Barack Obama publicly praised Ben Bernanke and stated that Bernanke has “already stayed a lot longer than he wanted” as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Bernanke’s term ends on January 31st, but many observers believe that he could leave even sooner than that. Bernanke appears to be tired of the job and eager to move on.
So who would replace him? Well, the mainstream media is making it sound like the appointment of Janet Yellen is already a forgone conclusion. She would be the first woman ever to chair the Federal Reserve, and her philosophy is that a little bit of inflation is good for an economy. It seems likely that she would continue to take us down the path that Bernanke has taken us.
But is it a fundamentally sound path? Keeping interest rates pressed to the floor and wildly printing money may be producing some positive results in the short-term, but the crazy bubble that this is creating will burst at some point. In fact, the director of financial stability for the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, recently admitted that the central bankers have “intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history” and he warned about what might happen once it ends…
“If I were to single out what for me would be biggest risk to global financial stability right now it would be a disorderly reversion in the yields of government bonds globally.” he said. There had been “shades of that” in recent weeks as government bond yields have edged higher amid talk that central banks, particularly the US Federal Reserve, will start to reduce its stimulus.
“Let’s be clear. We’ve intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history,” Haldane said. “We need to be vigilant to the consequences of that bubble deflating more quickly than [we] might otherwise have wanted.”
Posted below is a chart that demonstrates how interest rates on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds have fallen over the last several decades. This has helped to fuel the false prosperity that we have been enjoying, but there is no way that the U.S. government should have been able to borrow money so cheaply. This bubble that we are living in now is setting the stage for a very, very painful adjustment…
So what will that “adjustment” look like?
The following analysis is from a recent article by Wolf Richter…
Ten-year Treasury notes have been kicked down from their historic pedestal last July when some poor souls, blinded by the Fed’s halo of omnipotence and benevolence, bought them at a minuscule yield of 1.3%. For them, it’s been an ice-cold shower ever since. As Treasuries dropped, yields meandered upward in fits and starts. After a five-week jump from 1.88% in early May, they hit 2.29% on Tuesday last week – they’ve retreated to 2.19% since then. Now investors are wondering out loud what would happen if ten-year Treasury yields were to return to more normal levels of 4% or even 5%, dragging other long-term interest rates with them. They know what would happen: carnage!
And according to Richter, there are already signs that the bond bubble is beginning to burst…
Wholesale dumping of Treasuries by exasperated foreigners has already commenced. Private foreigners dumped $30.8 billion in Treasuries in April, an all-time record. Official holders got rid of $23.7 billion in long-term Treasury debt, the highest since November 2008, and $30.1 billion in short-term debt. Sell, sell, sell!
Bond fund redemptions spoke of fear and loathing: in the week ended June 12, investors yanked $14.5 billion out of Treasury bond funds, the second highest ever, beating the prior second-highest-ever outflow of $12.5 billion of the week before. They were inferior only to the October 2008 massacre as chaos descended upon financial markets. $27 billion in two weeks!
In lockstep, average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates jumped from 3.59% in early May to 4.15% last week. The mortgage refinancing bubble, by which banks have creamed off billions in fees, is imploding – the index has plunged 36% since early May.
If interest rates start to climb significantly, that will have a dramatic affect on economic activity in the United States.
And we have seen this pattern before.
As Robert Wenzel noted in a recent article on the Economic Policy Journal, we saw interest rates rise suddenly just prior to the October 1987 stock market crash, and we also saw them rise substantially prior to the financial crisis of 2008…
As Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker left the Fed chairmanship in August 1987, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 8.2% to 9.2% between June 1987 and September 1987. This was followed, of course by the October 1987 stock market crash.
As Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan left the Fed chairmanship at the end of January 2006, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 4.35% to 4.65%. It then climbed above 5%.
So keep a close eye on interest rates in the months ahead. If they start to rise significantly, that will be a red flag.
And it makes perfect sense why Bernanke is looking to hand over the reins of the Fed at this point. He can probably sense the carnage that is coming and he wants to get out of Dodge while he still can.
By Tyler Durden
In just under 30 minutes, Peter Schiff and Doug Casey muse on many facets of the crumbling edifice of the status quo that is our current world.
From Gold’s relatively imminent rise to $5,000 and beyond, to investor ignorance of reality, Casey & Schiff swing from discussions of the US as political entity going forward to ‘escape from America’ plans for personal and wealth assets, and the realization that the biggest casualty (of US indebtedness), aside from individual liberty, is the value of the dollar – as taxing the middle class is unpopular with both parties – leaving only one route for the government – the inflation tax. Owning gold, silver, and foreign assets is preferred and while the rest of the world is also printing, the US is likely to beat them all.
People “are clueless with respect to the true state of the global economy,” with regard to inflation, fiat currencies, and specifically what will happen to the dollar. The conversation is wide-ranging and absolutely must-see as they remind market-watchers that “the whole thing is artificial,” as you can’t just keep printing money and monetizing debt without the dollar imploding with monetary policy descending (along with its trillion dollar coin) into ‘Three Stooges’ comedy.
The conversation weaves to some endgame discussions which bring Peter to discuss his father, who he sees as a political prisoner, and his views on the future…
“the biggest change that is coming to the global economy is a realignment of global living standards.”
There is something here for everyone…
By Joseph Beck
The message of liberty has proven to be stronger than “9-9-9,” “Yes We Can,” or any other empty campaign rhetoric that has been incessantly repeated in today’s election cycle. Unlike the others that merely pander to our base instincts of “Hope and Change” or our desire to have a Dr. Evil-style Moon base, there is substance to the liberty message.
Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) has been delivering the same message of peace, sound money, and limited government for over 40 years. His entire political career has been devoted to the preservation of liberty and truth.
As George Orwell rightly said, “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Unfortunately, we are in living under a state apparatus that is built on lies. Bailouts, wars, and other state-sanctioned interventions are always necessary to keep us safe from the evil economy or the evil bogeymen who reside in evil caves.
A rather significant characteristic of the message is the way it has spread: through the internet, alternative media, and grassroots movements like the Dec. 17, 2007, Tea Party money bomb that raised over $6 million in one day. That day marked the beginning of the modern day Tea Party, before it was co-opted by Fox News demagogues like Sean Hannity and other so-called conservatives in the mainstream media. The alternative media has propelled this revolution to the front lines of political discourse in this country. Thousands of students come to see Ron Paul speak on a regular basis. Paul supporters, both young and old, male and female, become students of Austrian economics and the Constitution.
An entire generation of Americans have become politically aware thanks to Paul’s efforts.
So, why has the mainstream media missed out on this intellectual, ideologically positive revolution?
Published on Apr 23, 2012 by channel4truth2012
Comparing side by side the words and political stances of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. Includes topics like universal health care, gun rights, energy, NDAA, the Patriot Act, Iran, sanctions, economic stimulus. bank and auto bailouts, civil rights, TARP, the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, campaign donations, and more. Thanks for watching & please share! Compiled with videos from news, interviews, rally footage, and more, IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE FAIR USE ACT.
Hmmm, so do we even have a “choice”?
The time is NOW to take back our personal liberties and freedoms!
Ron Paul 2012: Restore America Now
Please visit Ron Paul’s official campaign site by following the link below and donate today!
By Steve Forbes
This article originally appeared int he Feb. 27, 2012 issue of Forbes magazine.
You thought socialism was dead, other than in miserable countries such as North Korea and Cuba? Think again. It’s alive and well at the Federal Reserve, and we and the world are paying a price for it.
Our central bank tries to manipulate our economy in ways befitting a Soviet commissar. Take interest rates. Fixing the price of money is a form of price control, pure and simple. Until Ben Bernanke our central bank was content to fix short-term interest rates, which he announced would be kept at virtually zero through 2014. But in the aftermath of the financial crisis Bernanke is, in effect, dictating the price of all money, regardless of duration.
By owning so many long-term government bonds, Bernanke has created an artificial shortage of these financial instruments. Like a good central planner, Bernanke is using his policies to subsidize the still rapidly growing, gargantuan debt of the U.S. government. He also holds a huge stash of mortgages so that mortgage rates can be kept low in order to revive the battered housing industry. Big companies also find credit abnormally easy to get.
All of this means the government is picking winners and losers. And in this case the losers are savers. Bernanke & Co. want to effectively force Americans to put their cash in riskier assets, such as stocks.
Another category that’s hurting is small business. Bernanke pays a nominal interest rate on reserves that banks leave at the Fed—a totally risk-free return. On paper an institution would do well lending to a local restaurant or dry cleaner, where rates are significantly higher. But if it does, it had best be prepared to undergo a regulatory third degree.
Ben and his apologists say that one of the Fed’s mandates is to bring about full employment; therefore, it must engage in these statist actions. History, however, shows us that the best thing a central bank can do to create prosperity is to keep the currency stable in value. Whenever the dollar veers in value, as it’s done chronically since the link to gold was severed 40 years ago, market distortions result and capital is misallocated.
The Fed’s socialist tendencies, as one would expect, ride roughshod over property rights. If you sold a bottle of wine for five loaves of bread and Washington came along and confiscated two of those loaves, that would be “takings.” The Constitution guarantees that the government would have to pay you for that seized property. Yet the Federal Reserve routinely confiscates people’s property when it undermines the value of the dollar.
One inconvenient fact Bernanke and his acolytes ignore is that before the creation of the Fed the U.S. economy grew at an average rate of 4%. Since then the average is just about 3%. But in this hyperactive Bernanke era we’ll be lucky to get a long-term average of 2%.