Is the Federal Reserve Right About Inflation?

The Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve serves as the Central Bank of the United States, and whether you realize it or not, it plays an active role in the lives of every American. It makes decisions about monetary policy and interest rates that have a direct impact on the market and an indirect impact on everyone. The FED uses inflation targets to determine how much they can devalue (inflate) the currency. Many people believe that they created a massive money printing scheme cryptically called “Quantitative Easing“since QE1 converted almost worthless mortgage backed securities into currency.

The Fed regularly issues statements about how inflation isn’t really as bad as everyone says it is. [Read more...]

How “Excess Reserves” and the Money Multiplier Could Trigger Inflation

Banks have $2.5 trillion parked in “excess reserves”. This is money on deposit with the FED. The FED pays a miniscule amount of interest on these reserves but the banks are willing to loan it to the FED because it is easy no risk income. But it is also the reason that the money multiplier is falling! And when the money multiplier is falling the FED has a very hard time increasing the money supply. So if the FED really wants to increase the money supply all it has to do is decrease the interest rate it pays on excess reserves and the banks will find some place else to deploy it. Which could trigger massive inflation. ~Tim McMahon,editor

A Fed Policy Change That Will Increase the Gold Price

By Doug French, Contributing Editor

Excess ReservesFor investors having an interest in the price of gold, the catalyst for a recovery may be in sight. “Buy gold if you believe in math,” Brent Johnson, CEO of Santiago Capital, recently told CNBC viewers.

Johnson says central banks are printing money faster than gold is being pulled from the ground, so the gold price must go up. Johnson is on the right track, but central banks have partners in the money creation business—commercial banks. And while the Fed has been huffing and puffing and blowing up its balance sheet, banks have been licking their wounds and laying low. Money has been cheap on Wall Street the last five years, but hard to find on Main Street.

Professor Steve Hanke, professor of Applied Economics at Johns Hopkins University, explains that the Fed creates roughly 15% of the money supply (what he calls “state money”), while the banks create “bank money,” which is the remaining 85% of the money supply.

Higher interest rates actually provide banks the incentive to lend. So while investors worry about [Read more...]

Inflation Expectations and the FED

As inflation expectations rise the FED has less and less “wiggle room” to stimulate the economy.  But how do you measure “inflation expectations”? In today’s article, Chris Ciovacco will show us. ~Tim McMahon, editor

Low Inflation Leaves Fed’s No Taper Door Open

Fed Lost Control In 2008

FED leaves door openIn early December, we used Japan as an extreme example of why central banks are terrified of allowing their respective economies to slip into a deflationary spiral. Do the same concepts apply to the United States? They do. The federal government offers standard Treasury bonds (IEF) and Treasuries that provide some protection against inflation (TIP). The law of supply and demand tells us that when demand for TIPS is greater than the demand for standard Treasuries, investors are concerned about future inflation. Conversely, when demand for TIPS is lagging demand for standard Treasuries, investors are not too concerned about inflation eroding the value of their interest payments. The chart below shows the S&P 500 (top) and the ratio of TIP-to-IEF below it. Demand for TIPS started to drop significantly in July 2008 (left of point A). As inflation fears plummeted, it helped foreshadow the big drop in equities between points C and D. The chart below helps us understand the Fed’s concerns about possible deflation. [Read more...]

FED Looks for New Ways to Crank Up Money Supply

With all the talk about “Tapering” you’d think the FED was actually considering reducing it’s money pumping. But in actuality that is not it at all. The FED is afraid that it is creating a a bubble in the stock market so it is looking for ways to continue its pumping but shift it enough so that the money goes somewhere besides just to the stock market. In other words, it is still worried about the economy and realizes that it is doing more harm than good but feels trapped, so it is looking for new ways that might work better. If the FED can figure out how to free up the log jam of “excess reserves” held by the banks, liquidity could be sloshing around the economy before you know it and inflation could be back big time. This is a result of the money multiplier (a function of bank reserves) so even though the FED increased the monetary base M2 actually fell in 2013. See Is Bernanke Shooting Blanks.  In today’s article Chris Ciovacco looks at what the FED is thinking now.  ~Tim McMahon, editor.

Fed Considering Even More Stimulus For Economy

Minutes Show Another Stimulative Tool Being Considered

We made the case on July 30 the Fed’s desire to taper is about bubble management rather than confidence in the economy. Hard evidence aligning with a “the Fed is still concerned about the economy” stance was included in the most recently released Fed minutes:

Participants also discussed a range of possible actions that could be considered if the Committee wished to signal its intention to keep short-term rates low or reinforce the forward guidance on the federal funds rate. For example, most participants thought that a reduction by the Board of Governors in the interest rate paid on excess reserves could be worth considering at some stage.

FED's new Strategy

According to an op-ed penned by former Fed governor Alan Binder, the text above from the October Fed minutes could be significant. From The Wall Street Journal:

I can assure you that those buried words were momentous. The Fed is famously given to understatement. So when it says that “most” members of its policy committee think a change “could be worth considering,” that’s almost like saying they love the idea. That’s news because they haven’t loved it before.

Why Should We Care About Excess Reserves?

Banks are required to keep [Read more...]

Pushing on a String, Velocity of Money and Money Multiplier Conspire Against the FED

Under certain circumstances such as high national indebtedness, fear of bad economic times or when interest rates approach zero, monetary policy becomes ineffective in enticing consumers into spending more money.  Economists refer to this as “Pushing on a String” because if the basic demand doesn’t exist to induce people to spend money, it can’t be forced through monetary policy. Prime examples of this are during the Great Depression in the United States and in Japan since the 1990s. And as Lacy Hunt explains we are once again facing this problem in the United States since 2008. ~Tim McMahon, editor

Federal Reserve Policy Failures Are Mounting

By Lacy H. Hunt, Ph.D., Economist

The Fed’s capabilities to engineer changes in economic growth and inflation are asymmetric. It has been historically documented that central bank tools are well suited to fight excess demand and rampant inflation; the Fed showed great resolve in containing the fast price increases in the aftermath of World Wars I and II and the Korean War. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, rampant inflation was again brought under control by a determined and persistent Federal Reserve.

Federal Reserve Bank ChicagoHowever, when an economy is excessively over-indebted and disinflationary factors force central banks to cut overnight interest rates to as close to zero as possible, central bank policy is powerless to further move inflation or growth metrics. The periods between 1927 and 1939 in the U.S. (and elsewhere), and from 1989 to the present in Japan, are clear examples of the impotence of central bank policy actions during periods of over-indebtedness.

Four considerations suggest the Fed will continue to be unsuccessful in engineering increasing growth and higher inflation with their continuation of the current program of Large Scale Asset Purchases (LSAP): [Read more...]

Taper Caper: The Consequences of Institutionalizing Q.E.

By Ben Hunt, Ph.D.

Previously, we discussed the Bureaucratic Capture of the FED and the institutionalizing of QE.

QE is adrenaline delivered via IV drip … a therapeutic, constant effort to maintain a certain quality of economic life. This may or may not be a positive development for Wall Street, depending on where you sit. I would argue that it’s a negative development for most individual and institutional investors. But it is music to the ears of every institutional political interest in Washington, regardless of party, and that’s what ultimately grants QE bureaucratic immortality.

It is impossible to overestimate the political inertia that exists within and around these massive Federal insurance programs, just as it is impossible to overestimate the electoral popularity (or market popularity, in the case of QE) of these programs. In the absence of a self-imposed wind-down plan – and that’s exactly what Bernanke laid out in June and exactly what he took back on Wednesday – there is no chance of any other governmental entity unwinding QE, even if they wanted to.

Oz_the-great-and-powerfulThe long-term consequences of this structural change in the Fed are immense and deserve many future Epsilon Theory notes. But in the short to medium-term it’s the procedural shifts that have been signaled this week that will impact markets. What does it mean for market behavior that Bernanke intentionally delivered an informational shock by forcing uncertainty into market expectations?

First, it’s important to note that this is not really an issue of credibility. The problem is not that people don’t believe that Bernanke means what he said on Wednesday, or that they won’t believe him if he says something different in October. The problem is that the Fed is entirely believable, but that the message is not one of “constructive ambiguity” as the academic papers written by Fed advisors intend, but one of vacillation and weakness of will.

From a game theory perspective, [Read more...]

Taper Caper: Has the FED Been “Politicized” or “Captured”?

By Ben Hunt, Ph.D.

Two things happened this week with the FOMC announcement and subsequent press conferences by Bernanke, Bullard, etc. – one procedural and one structural. The procedural event was the intentional injection of ambiguity into Fed communications. As I’ll describe below, this is an even greater policy mistake than the initial June FOMC meeting when “tapering” first entered our collective vocabulary. The structural event … which is far more important, far more long-lasting, and just plain sad … is the culmination of the bureaucratic capture of the Federal Reserve, not by the banking industry which it regulates, but by academic economists and acolytes of government paternalism. These are true-believers in too-clever-by-half academic theories such as management of forward expectations and in the soft authoritarianism of Mandarin rule. They are certain that they have both a duty and an ability to regulate the global economy in the best interests of the rest of us poor benighted souls. Anyone else remember “The Committee to Save the World” (Feb. 1999)? The hubris levels of current Fed and Treasury leaders make Rubin, Greenspan, and Summers seem almost humble in comparison, as hard as that may be to believe. The difference is that the guys on the left operated in the real world, where usually you were right but sometimes you were wrong in a clearly demonstrable fashion. A professional academic like Bernanke or Yellen has never been wrong. Published papers and books are not held accountable because nothing is riding on them, and this internal assumption of intellectual infallibility follows wherever they go. As a former cleric in this Church, I know wherefore I speak.

Committee_to_save_the_worldThere’s frequent hand-wringing among the chattering class about whether or not the Fed has been “politicized.” Please. That horse left the barn decades ago. In fact, with the possible exception of Paul Volcker (and even he is an accomplished political animal) I am hard pressed to identify any Fed Chairman who has not incorporated into monetary policy the political preferences of whatever Administration happened to be in power at the time.

Bureaucratic capture is not politicization. It is the subversion of [Read more...]

The Mystery of the Missing Taper

Taper Caper: Conspiracy Theory

Last Thursday, prior to the FOMC announcement, I was invited to come sit with another group of friends and traders everyone was sure there would be some type of tapering. That message had been clearly communicated to the markets. When the announcement came, the telephones went off and everyone erupted with various forms of surprise. I fully admit to being speechless. I kept waiting for some kind of explanation, and none came. The more we talked about it and the more I thought about it later, the more convinced I became that this was one of the more ham-handed policy announcements from the Fed in a very long time. Why would you go to the trouble of getting the market all ready for the onset of tapering, build expectations, and then jerk out the rug? What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on?

Taper Caper

John Mauldin

Everyone is searching for an answer on the FOMC’s move. Louis Gave came up with what I’m affectionately calling his conspiracy theory. He thinks Obama is quite upset that he can’t have Summers as Fed chair and that his staff is crossways with Yellen. Reports suggest she has [Read more...]

How The Federal Reserve is Making Us Poorer

In today’s article Lacy Hunt looks at the Federal Reserve’s economic model and a few important questions regarding their policy, including, “How accurate have the FED’s previous predictions been?” and “Has the Fed facilitated errant fiscal policies?” and  “Is the Fed relying on an outdated understanding of how the macro-economy works?”.  He also shows how because of (not in spite of) FED actions, “real income of the vast majority of American households fell” and “worsened the income/wealth divide”. In other words the FED has made us poorer. ~Tim McMahon, editor

The Federal Reserve (FED)

By Lacy H. Hunt, Ph.D., Economist

Federal ReserveIn May 22 testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke issued another of many similar positive interpretations of central bank policy. Yet again, he continued to argue that quantitative easing has decreased long-term interest rates and produced other benefits. He called economic growth “moderate,” a term that he has often used without acknowledging that the Fed’s forecasts have repeatedly been far above the mark. Within less than two months—or by the time of the July FOMC meeting—the Fed had downgraded the economic growth to “modest,” tacitly acknowledging that program of open-ended $85 billion purchases of government and federal agency security purchases had failed to boost economic activity.

The Fed’s polices have not produced the much-promised re-acceleration in economic growth. In the first half of 2013 as well as the latest four quarters, the real GDP growth rate was a paltry 1.4%, even less than the 1.9% growth in the 13.5 years of this century, and less than two-fifths  of the 3.8% GDP growth rate since 1790. Only growth in the 1930s was less than in the 2000s, a time when Dr. Bernanke played a major, if not dominant, role in monetary policy decisions.

Questions abound: How serious have their forecast errors been? Are they related to the Fed’s failed policies? Has the Fed facilitated errant fiscal policies that are as much a problem as central bank policy? What may explain the Fed’s excessive optimism? Are they so committed to what they are doing that they continue to make unsupported assessments, or is the Fed relying on an outdated understanding of how the macro-economy works—one that does not square with an impressive body of new scholarly research? [Read more...]

The Case of the Disappearing Gold

When I was in the 6th grade (many, many years ago) my class took a field trip to New York City and visited the NY FED. The highlight of the trip for me was a ride down the elevator (or more precisely what was at the bottom.

The ride took forever with dozens of kids and one security guard in that tight stuffy space. Anticipation built as we went down what seemed like miles into the earth where the vaults rested on Manhattan bedrock. And what was in those vaults?

Gold! Lots of gold! Each vault had a name on it but not people’s names, countries names. After all in those days people weren’t allowed to own gold.

For years now there has been a controversy as to whether our (the U.S.) Gold is really in Fort Knox (or at least all of it). Ron Paul has been advocating for an audit of Fort Knox for years (in addition to an audit of the FED itself). In February 2013 the government released the results of their audit and surprise, surprise everything is just fine (nothing to see here, move along, move along). As a matter of fact, during the assay they found that some bars were actually more pure than originally thought so the government has increased its valuation of its gold holdings by 27 whole ounces! The audit process revealed that the NY FED houses 34,021 gold bars belonging to the United States, which sounds like a lot but according to

As part of the audit, the Treasury tested “a sample of the government’s 34,021 gold bars” in the New York Fed’s vault five stories below Manhattan’s financial district. Why is this so significant?  As anyone with a simple calculator can discover, the Treasury department has just inadvertently admitted that rather than the official 8,133.5 tons the Treasury reports as the US’ official gold reserves, the Treasury’s actual physical gold stores at the NY Fed are a measly 466.57 tons!   While the Treasury does reportedly also hold gold at Fort Knox, several reports have claimed that up to half of the US Gold is held at the NY Fed! No wonder it will take the Bundesbank 7 years to repatriate 300 tons!

In our recent article, How the Golden Reset Button Could Drive the Price of Gold to $20,000. we told you that Germany wants its gold back. Could Germany be wondering if its gold is really in the N.Y. Fed? In this article Jeff Thomas from “International Man” takes a look at some of the implications of this issue. ~ Tim McMahon, editor

The Disappearing Gold

by Jeff Thomas

NY FED GoldDuring the Cold War, Germany moved much of its gold to New York in case the USSR invaded Germany. It was assumed at that time that the US would be a safer storage location, and of course, they could always ask to have it returned if they wished. But German citizens have become increasingly worried about the security of the 1,536 tonnes of German gold reputedly held at the Federal Reserve in New York. This has resulted in the Bundesbank pursuing repatriation of the gold, beginning with a request to view it in the basement of the Federal Reserve Building, where it is claimed to reside. Of course, the German government had received periodic [Read more...]