Tag Archives: monetary policy

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.

Essential Commodities: Gold, Silver And Popcorn

JBGJ regards Indians buying less gold as cash crunch bites primarily as evidence that FOBs (Friends of Bloomberg) are not in gold. If India’s domestic gold market was as weak as presented there would be a significant discount to the world price…In reality the Government has struck a shattering blow at the trust Indians have in holding wealth in any form accessible to the Authorities. When things finally unglue, India’s propensity to hold gold will probably be found to have risen – John Brimelow’s Gold Jottings report – LINK.

Yesterday’s sell-off in gold occurred after the Comex floor had closed for the day.  The period of time between when the Comex closes  – 1:30 p.m. EST – and the CME’s Globex computer system trading closes for about an hour – 5 p.m. EST – is one of the least liquid trading periods of the 23 hour, 5-day trading week.  It makes that period of time susceptible to manipulative price take-downs.

As it so happens, likely not coincidentally, Janet Yellen began speaking about monetary policy at 2 p.m. EST.  She stated that the Fed expects a few interest rate hikes per year until 2019.  Geez, that would take the Fed funds rate up to maybe 2%?  Of course, helped along the by the bullion banks, the hedge fund trading algos grabbed the soundbytes spewing forth from Yellen and concomitantly sold paper gold and bought dollars.  The dollar spiked up and gold was taken down to $1200.  It traded below $1200 overnight on the “fumes” of yesterday.

Gold, silver and the mining stocks have had a nice move from late December to now.  They will not go straight up.  Technically the sector was set up to be susceptible to trading activity related to Fed soundbyte propaganda like yesterday.   This is yet another buying opportunity.  Buy a little every month when the price gets taken down in the paper market. According to the Indian data presented by Brimelow, India is a huge buyer of gold below $1200.   China is a steady buyer regardless of the price.

The Trump presidency will usher in a period in which Orwell’s prophecies will shift into overdrive.  Popular mistrust of anything and everything Government will accelerate and Big Government’s attempt to counter-act this movement will take place in the form of intensified propaganda and a further reduction in  civil rights.  Along with this influx of political and media chaos will be an increasing distrust of fiat paper “fake” currency, which means the public will likely buy even more gold and silver than it did in 2016.  Note:  the U.S. mint sold a record amount of gold eagles in 2016.

In today’s episode of the Shadow of Truth, we continue our discussion of the precious metals sector, including some analysis of the gold / silver ratio:

The Economy Is Tanking – Inflation/Obamacare Attacking The Middle Class

The economic reports continue to show an overall rate of deterioration in economic activity down to levels – in general – comparable with the 2008-2010 period.  Freight transportation activity is part of the “nerve center” of the economic system.   The latest data from Cass shows a rapid decline in both freight shipments and expenditures that began in mid-2014:

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As you can see, expenditures plunged 10.1% year over year.  North American freight shipments reflect all economic activity at all levels of the economic system across a broad spectrum of industries.

Retail sales reports going back to December 2014 are signalling economic stress at the household level:   “During normal economic times, annual real growth in Retail Sales at or below 2.0% signals an imminent recession. That signal basically has been in play from December 2014, based on industrial production, retail sales and other indicators), suggesting a deepening, broad economic downturn” (John Williams, Shadowstats.com)

This financial stress at the household level is beginning to show up in credit delinquencies and defaults.  Last Tuesday Synchrony Financial reported an unexpected spike in its credit card charge-off rates:  Rising Credit Card Defaults.   As I’ve detailed in prior posts, auto loan delinquencies and defaults are beginning to accelerate.  I’ve covered a couple of credit and credit-related companies in my Short Seller’s Journal , one of which is down 18% since I featured it on March 20th. This is a remarkable fact given that the S&P 500 is up 1.5% in the same time-frame.   When the stock market rolls over, this stock will drop at least 50%.

Although the latest retail sales report last week showed a small gain month over month, the unexpected gain was fueled almost entirely by the rise in gasoline prices.   The Government CPI report does not show much inflation, because the Government goes out of its way to not measure inflation.

The Government’s methodologies used to hide real inflation have been dissected ad nauseum by this blog and many others over the years.  Instead, I wanted to share a write-up a friend and colleague of mine sent me which elegantly describes the truth about inflation and Obamacare and the affect both are having on the average American household:

There’s a huge disconnect between the Government CPI report and true inflation. May wholesale gas prices were flat while the Commerce Dept reported that May gasoline sales for retail sales purposes went up 2.1%. Implies 2% usage higher which might tie in with how, with lower gas prices earlier this year there was the shift to the lower mileage bigger vehicles, or could be more driving.

However, April gas prices according to CPI were up 8.1% but wholesale prices were up more like 14% in April. So the CPI price increase is 57% of the futures price increase. Apply the “lower inflation” to revenues driven by inflation and that’s how GDP gets overstated.

There a lot of moving pieces in the data charade. CPI is reported later this week (June 16th) and it will be interesting to see whats reported for gas. I looked at this a few years ago and found stark inconsistencies between the price level used by the Government in its CPI index vs wholesale gas prices, which are futures based.

The other issue is in food. This is where the CPI index substitution comes into play that John Williams (Shadowstats.com) talks about. My own index includes “outside skirt steak” which is approaching $20 a pound, where I used to pay $5-7 a pound a few years back. So we actually bought/substituted rib eyes at 10 bucks a pound. From an inflation perspective, if that got into the counting, I reduced my inflation by 50% (we later bought hamburger meat at Sams for 2.79 a pound so in the month we cut out our personal CPI on meat by 85%-although we moved to lower quality products). Another issue was cereal–which I used to buy regularly at Walmart early this year at $2.50 a box and it’s now $3.30 a box (32% price inflation).

So, what’s the point?

The point is that there is getting to be some serious inflation in food and somehow its not showing up in the Govt data. In addition, with all the variability with sales and type of stores and how the GDP, Jobs or CPI surveys are created–less than scientific, the government can drive whatever reporting outcome it wants and it’s virtually impossible for anybody to follow.

Regardless of how gasoline pricing is showing up for various Govt reports, between the higher cost of gas and food, and lower earnings in general, people are getting more and more stretched especially as healthcare, education and housing costs go much higher.

This latest retail sales report did confirm home improvement is now declining (big ticket items and durable goods), which had been one of the few bright spots in retail. I am also guessing that there is a shift in overall spending to necessities. The huge increases in Healthcare premiums is pretty significant for a family along with co-pays and deductibles. Practically speaking the middle class is getting attacked. There are not enough ultra-high income earners who can carry the economy.

The S&P 500 made another failed run at an all-time high earlier this month.  If the Fed was not aggressively preventing any down-side momentum from gripping the stock market, there would like be a stock market crash.

The U.S. financial and economic system is inching toward an abyss that is much deeper and darker than the abyss into which it plunged in 2008.

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