Tag Archives: balance sheet normalization

The Fed’s Everything Bubble And The Inevitable Asset Crash

Do not mistake outcomes for control – remember, there is no such thing as control – there are only probabilities. – Christopher Cole, Artemis Capital

Central Banks globally have created a massive fiat currency fueled asset bubble.  Stock markets are the largest of these bubbles – a bubble  made worse by the Fed’s attempt to harness the “power” of HFT-driven algo trading.  At least for now, the Fed can “control” the stock market by pushing the buttons that unleash hedge fund black box momentum-chasing and retail ETF  buy orders whenever the market is about to head south quickly.

However, the ability to push the stock market higher without a statistically meaningful correction is a statistical “tail-event” in and of itself. The probability that the Fed can continue to control the market like this becomes infinitesimally small. The market becomes like a like a coiled spring. The laws of probability tell us this “spring” is pointing down.

The Fed announced in no uncertain terms that it was going to begin “normalizing” – whatever “normalize” means – its balance sheet beginning in October.  Going back to 1955, the furthest back in time for which the data is readily accessible, the Fed Funds rate has averaged around 6%.  But for the last 9 years, the Fed Funds rate has averaged near-zero.  Back in May 2013 Ben Bernanke threatened the markets with his “taper” speech.  More than four years later the Fed Funds rate is by far closer to near-zero than it is to the 62-year Fed Funds rate average.  Can you imagine what would happen to the stock market if the Fed actually “normalized” its monetary policy by yanking the Fed Funds rate up to its 62-year average of 6%?

In September the Fed announced that it would begin reducing its balance sheet by $10 billion per month starting in October. Before the Fed began printing money unfettered in 2008, its balance sheet was approximately $900 billion.  If we define “normalize” as reducing the Fed’s balance back down to $900 billion, it would take 30 years at $10 billion per month. But wait, the Fed’s balance sheet is going the wrong way.  It has increased in October by $10 billion (at least thru the week ending October 18th).  So much for normalizing.

The Fed is stuck. It has created its own financial Frankenstein. Neither can it continue hiking interest rates nor can it  “normalize” its balance sheet without causing systemically adverse consequences.  The laws of probability and randomness – both of which are closely intertwined – tell us that, at some point, the Fed will lose control of the system regardless of whether or not it decides to keep rates low and maintain the size, more or less, of its balance sheet.

Jason Burack invited me onto his Wall Street For Mainstreet podcast to discuss the Fed’s “Everything Bubble,” why the Fed can’t “normalize” its balance sheet and the unavoidable adverse consequences coming at the system:

 MINING STOCK JOURNAL                           –                SHORT SELLER’S JOURNAL

Can The Fed “Normalize” Without Collapsing The System?

The official lies about the economy keep mounting.  The Dallas Fed reports that its regional economic activity metric surged in early September, despite the complete shut-down of Houston for a few days during the “measurement” period.  The “general activity” index spiked up to a 7-month high. Clearly the quality of this report is suspect, to say the least.

Contrary to this report, the Chicago Fed’s National Activity Index plunged to -0.31.  It was the weakest reading since last August and a huge plunged from the July reading of 0.03. The Street was expecting 0.11.  Because of the nature of this index (85 sub-components measured at the national level) it takes a lot to “move the needle” for this metric.  A negative point-three-one reading implies that the national economy broadly contracted during August.

Clearly the Dallas Fed propaganda was intended to reinforce the Fed’s empty threat to raise interest rates and “normalize” its balance sheet .  Silver Doctors invited me onto their Friday weekly market podcast to discuss the latest propaganda that spewed forth from the Fed’s FOMC meeting earlier in the week, the western Central Banks’ losing battle to push the price of gold lower and the continuing deterioration in the U.S. political and economic system:

The precious metals is in the early stages of another bull market run, like the one that occurred from 2001-2011. This one is being driven by the China-led movement to remove the dollar as the world’s reserve currency and replace with a currency that will incorporate incorporating gold back into the monetary system. The Mining Stock Journal is a bi-weekly newsletter that will help you get invested ahead of the next huge capital flow into the precious metals sector. To find more, click here:  Mining Stock Journal

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Will The Fed Really “Normalize” Its Balance Sheet?

To begin with, how exactly does one define “normalize” in reference to the Fed’s balance sheet?  The Fed predictably held off raising rates again today.  However, it said that beginning in October it would no longer re-invest proceeds from its Treasury and mortgage holdings and let the balance sheet “run off.”

Here’s the problem with letting the Treasuries and mortgage just mature:   Treasuries never really “mature.” Rather, the maturities are “rolled forward” by refinancing the outstanding Treasuries due to mature.   The Government also issues even more Treasurys to fund its reckless spending habits.  Unless the Fed “reverse repos” the Treasurys right before they are refinanced by the Government, the money printed by the Fed to buy the Treasurys will remain in the banking system.  I’m surprised no one has mentioned this minor little detail.

The Fed has also kicked the can down the road on hiking interest rates in conjunction with shoving their phony 1.5% inflation number up our collective ass.  The Fed Funds rate has been below 1% since October 2008, or nine years.   Quarter point interest rate hikes aren’t really hikes. we’re at 1% from zero in just under two years. That’s not “hiking” rates.  Until they start doing the reverse-repos in $50-$100 billion chunks at least monthly, all this talk about “normalization” is nothing but the babble of children in the sandbox.  I think the talk/threat of it is being used to slow down the decline in the dollar.

To justify its monetary policy, Yellen stated today that she’s, “very pleased in progress made in the labor market.”  Again, how does one define progress?  Here’s one graphic which shows that the labor market has been and continues to be a complete abortion:

The labor force participation rate (left y-axis) has been plunging since 2000. It’s currently below 63%. This means that over 37% of the working age population in the United States is not considered part of the labor force. That’s close to 100 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 who, for whatever reason, are not looking for a job or actively employed. A record number of those employed are working more than one part-time job in order to put food on table and a roof over the heads of their household. Good job Janet! Bravo!.

The blue line in the graph above shows the amount of dollars spent by the Government on welfare. Note the upward point acceleration in the rate of welfare spending correlates with the same point in time at which the labor force participation rate began to plunge. Again, nice work Janet!

The labor force participation rate is much closer to the true rate of unemployment in the United States.  John Williams of Shadowstats.com has calculated the rate of unemployment using the methodology used by the Government a couple of decades ago and has shown that a “truer” rate of unemployment is closer to 23%.

The true level of unemployment  is definitively the reason why the rate of welfare spending increased in correlation with the decline in those considered to be part of the labor force.   It could also be shown using the Fed’s data that another portion of the plunging labor force participation rate is attributable to the acceleration in student loans outstanding.  I would argue that part of the splurge in student loan funding, initiated by Obama, was used to keep potential job-seekers being forced by economic necessity from  seeking jobs and therefore could be removed from the labor force definition, which in turn lowers the unemployment rate.

As I write this, Yellen is asserting that “U.S. economic performance has been good.”  I’d like to get my hands on some of the opioids she must be abusing.  Real retail sales have been dropping precipitously (the third largest retail store bankruptcy in history was filed yesterday), household debt is at an an all-time high, Government debt hits an all-time high every minute of the day and interest rates are at 5,000 year lows (sourced from King World News)

Note to Janet:   near-zero cost of money is not in any way an attribute of an economy that is “doing well.” In fact, record levels of systemic debt and rising corporate and household bankruptcies are the symptoms of failed Central Bank economic and monetary policies. This is further reinforced by the record level of income disparity between the 1% highest income earners and the rest of the U.S. labor force.

The entire U.S. economic and financial system is collapsing.  If the Fed truly follows through on its threat to “normalize” its balance sheet and raise rates, the U.S. will likely collapse sometime in the next couple of years. On other hand, up to this point since Bernanke’s famous “taper” speech in May 2013, most of the Fed’s statements with regard to hiking rates (hiking them for real) and reducing its balance sheet has been nothing but hot air.  And in fact, unless the Fed reverse repos its balance sheet back to the banks, it’s assertion of “balance sheet normalization” is nothing more than another in long series of lies.