Tag Archives: Powell

Modern Monetary Insanity And The Three Stooges

James Kunstler summarized it perfectly. So rather than reinventing the wheel, here’s an excerpt from his Monday commentary:

Jerome Powell [was] wheeled out on CBS’s 60 Minutes Sunday night, like a cigar store Indian at an antique fair, so vividly sculpted and colorfully adorned you could almost imagine him saying something. Maybe it was an hallucination, but I heard him say that “the economy is in a good place,” and that “the outlook is a favorable one.” Point taken. Pull the truck up to the loading dock and fill it with Tesla shares! I also thought I heard “Inflation is muted.” That must have been the laugh line, since there is almost no single item in the supermarket that goes for under five bucks these days. But really, when was the last time you saw a cigar store Indian at Trader Joes? It took seventeen Federal Reserve math PhD’s to come up with that line, inflation is muted.

What you really had to love was Mr. Powell’s explanation for the record number of car owners in default on their monthly payments: “…not everybody is sharing in this widespread prosperity we have.”

And so it went on 60 Minutes on Sunday evening. I strongly recommend reading Kunstler’s entire essay:  Ides and Tides…The Fed and the FOMC are not mandated to set monetary policy to stabilize employment and inflation. The Fed’s role is to help the banks maximize profits. That’s it in a nutshell.

The best way to fight and protect yourself from the Fed’s mandate is to own physical gold. Phil Kennedy of Kennedy Financial invited Bill “Midas” Murphy and I to discuss the gold market and where it’s going from here:

The Powell Helium Pump

The stock market has gone “Roman Candle” since Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, gave a speech that was interpreted as a precursor to the Fed softening its stance on monetary policy.  Not that intermittent quarter-point Fed Funds rate nudges higher or a barely negligible decline in the Fed’s balance sheet should be considered “tight” money policy.

Credible measures of price inflation, like the John Williams Shadowstats.com Alternative measure, which shows the rate of inflation using the methodology in place in 1990, show inflation at 6%.  The Chapwood Index measures inflation using the cost of  500 items on which most Americans spend their after-tax income.  The index is calculated for major metro areas and has inflation averaging 10% (The John Williams measure which uses 1980 Government methodology also shows the current inflation at 10%).

Using the most lenient measure above – 6% current inflation – real interest rates are negative 3.5% (real rate of interest = Fed Funds – real inflation).  The “neutral” interest rate would reset the Fed Funds rate to 6%.  In other words, the Fed should be targeting a much higher Fed Funds rate.

So, if the economy is booming, as Trump exclaims daily while beating his chest  – and as echoed by the hand-puppets in the mainstream media – why is the Fed relaxing its stance on monetary policy?  The huge jump in employment, per the December jobs report, should have triggered an inter- FOMC meeting rate hike to prevent the economy from “over-heating.”

In truth, the economy is not “booming” and the employment report was outright fraudulent. The BLS revised lower several prior periods’ employment gains and shifted the gains into December. The revisions are not published until the annual benchmark revision, on which no one reports (other than John Williams). Not only will you never hear or read this fact from the mainstream financial media and Wall Street analysts, most if not all of them are likely unaware of the BLS recalculations.

The housing market is deteriorating quickly. Housing and all the related economic activity connected to homebuilding and home resales represents at least 20% of GDP. And the housing market is not going to improve anytime soon.  According to a survey by Fannie Mae, most Americans think it’s a bad time to buy a home even with the large decline in interest rates recently.

Several other mainstream measures of economic activity are showing rapid deterioration:  factor orders, industrial production, manufacturing, real retail sales, freight rates etc. Moreover, the average household is loaded up its eyeballs with debt of all flavors and is sitting on a near-record  low savings rate.  Corporate debt levels are at all-time highs.  In truth the economy is on the precipice of going into a tailspin.

The stock market is the only “evidence” to which Trump and the Fed can point as evidence that the economy is “strong.”  Unfortunately, over the last decade, the stock market has become an insidious propaganda tool, used and manipulated for political expediency.  The stock market can be loosely controlled by the Fed using monetary policy.

The stock market can be directly controlled by the Working Group on Financial Markets – a subsidiary of the Treasury mandated by a Reagan Executive Order in 1988 – using the Exchange Stabilization Fund. Note:  anyone who believes the Exchange Stabilization fund and the Working Group are conspiracy theories lacks knowledge of history and is ignorant of easily verifiable facts.

Trump referred to the stock market as a “big fat ugly bubble” in 2016 when he was running for President with the Dow at 17,000.  If it was a visually unaesthetic sight back then, what should it labelled now when it almost hit 27,000 in 2018?  Trump blamed the recent decline in stock prices on the Fed.  Worse, Trump has put inexorable political pressure on the Fed to loosen monetary policy and stop nudging rates higher.  Note that this debate never covers the topic of “relative valuation…”

The weekend before Christmas, after a gut-wrenching sell-off in the stock market, the Secretary of Treasury graciously interrupted his vacation in Mexico to place a call to a group of Wall Street bank CEOs to lobby for help with the stock market.  The Treasury Secretary is part of the Working Group on Financial Markets.  The call to the bank CEOs was choreographically followed-up by the stock market-friendly speech from Powell, who is also a member of the Working Group.

The PPT combo-punch jolted the hedge fund algos like a sonic boom.  The S&P 500 has shot up 10.8% in the ten trading days since Christmas.  It has clawed back 56% of the amount its decline between early September and Christmas Eve.

In reality, the speech was not a “put” because a “put” implies the installation of a safety net beneath the stock market to stop the descent. Rather, the speech should be called, “Powell’s Helium Pump.”  This is because the actions by Mnuchin and Powell were specifically crafted with the intent to drive the stock market higher.  It’s worked for a week, but will it work long term?  History resoundingly says, “no.”

Make no mistake, this nothing more than a temporary respite from what is going to be a brutal bear market.  The vertical move in stocks was triggered by official intervention. It has stimulated manic short-covering by the hedge fund computer algorithms and panic buying by obtuse retail investors.

Investors are not used to two-way price discovery in the stock market, which was removed by the Federal Reserve and the Government in late 2008.  Many money managers and retail investors were not around for the 2007-2009 bear market. Most were not around for the 2000 tech crash and very few were part of the 1987 stock crash.

The market’s Pied Pipers have already declared the resumption of the bull market, Dennis Gartman being among the most prominent.  More likely, at some point when it’s least expected, the bottom will once again fall away from the stock market and the various indices will head toward lower lows.

In the context of well-heeled Wall Street veterans, like Leon Cooperman, crying like babies about the hedge fund algos when the stock market was spiraling lower, I’m having difficulty finding anyone whining about the behavior of the computerized buy-programs with the stock market reaching for the moon.

Welcome To 2019: Declining Stocks, A Falling Dollar And Rising Gold / Silver Prices

The stock market has become the United States’ “sacred cow.” For some reason stock prices have become synonymous with economic growth and prosperity. In truth, the stock market is nothing more than a reflection of the inflation/currency devaluation caused by the Fed’s money printing and lascivious enablement of rampant credit creation. 99% of all households have not experienced the rising prosperity and wealth of the upper 1%. The Fed’s own wealth distribution statistics support this assertion.

It’s been amusing to watch Trump transition from tagging the previous Administration with creating a “big fat ugly stock bubble” – with the Dow at 17,000 – to threats of firing the Fed Chairman for “allowing” the stock market to decline, with the Dow falling from 26,000 to 23,000. If the stock market was big fat ugly bubble in 2016, what is it now?

If the Fed pulls back from its interest rate “nudges” and liquidity tightening policy, the dollar will sell-off, gold will elevate in price rapidly and the Trump Government will find it significantly more difficult to finance its massive deficit-spending fiscal policy. Welcome to 2019…

SBTV, produced by Silver Bullion in Singapore, invited me onto their podcast to discuss the Fed, the economy and, of course, gold and silver:

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If you are interested in ideas for taking advantage of the inevitable systemic reset that  will hit the U.S. financial and economic system, check out either of these newsletters:   Short Seller’s Journal  information and more about the Mining Stock Journal here:   Mining Stock Journal information.

It’s Lose-Lose For The Fed And For Everyone

A friend asked me today what I thought Powell should do.  I said, “the system is screwed. It ultimately doesn’t matter what anyone does.   The money printing, credit creation and artificially low interest rates over the last 10 years has fueled the most egregious misallocation of capital in history of the universe.”

Eventually the Fed/Central Banks will print trillions more – 10x more than the last time around. If they don’t this thing collapses. It won’t matter if interest rates are zero or 10%. You can’t force economic activity if there’s no demand and you’ve devalued the currency by printing it until its worth next to nothing and people are toting around piles of cash in a wheelbarrow worth more than the mountain of $100 bills inside the wheelbarrow.

The price of oil is down another $3.50 today to $46.50. That reflects a global economy that is cratering, including and especially in the U.S. Most people will listen to the perma-bullish Wall Streeters, money managers and meat-with-mouths on bubblevision preach “hope.”

Anyone who can remove their retirement funds from their 401k or IRA and doesn’t is an idiot. Anyone thinking about selling their home but is waiting for the market to “climb out of this small valley in the market” will regret not selling now.

Forget Powell. What can you do? There is no asset that stands on equal footing with gold. You either own it or you do not.

“You have to choose between trusting to the natural stability of gold and the natural stability of the honesty and intelligence of the members of the government. And, with due respect to these gentlemen, I advise you, as long as the capitalist system lasts, to vote for gold.” – George Bernard Shaw

Powell Just Signaled That The Next Crisis Is Here

Housing and auto sales appear to have hit a wall over the last 8-12 weeks.  To be sure, online holiday sales jumped significantly year over year, but brick-n-mortar sales were flat. The problem there:  e-commerce is only about 10% of total retail sales.  We won’t know until January how retail sales fared this holiday season.  I know that, away from Wall Street carnival barkers, the retail industry is braced for disappointing holiday sales this year.

A subscriber asked my opinion on how and when a stock market collapse might play out. Here’s my response: “With the degree to which Central Banks now intervene in the markets, it’s very difficult if not impossible to make timing predictions. I would argue that, on a real inflation-adjusted GDP basis, the economy never recovered from 2008. I’m not alone in that assessment. A global economic decline likely started in 2008 but has been covered up by the extreme amount of money printed and credit created.

It’s really more of a question of when will the markets reflect or catch up to the underlying real fundamentals? We’re seeing the reality reflected in the extreme divergence in wealth and income between the upper 1% and the rest. In fact, the median middle class household has gone backwards economically since 2008. That fact is reflected in the decline of real average wages and the record level of household debt taken on in order for these households to pretend like they are at least been running place.”

The steep drop in housing and auto sales are signaling that the average household is up to its eyeballs in debt. Auto and credit card delinquency rates are starting to climb rapidly. Subprime auto debt delinquencies rates now exceed the delinquency rates in 2008/2009.

The Truth is in the details – Despite the large number of jobs supposedly created in October and YTD, the wage withholding data published by the Treasury does not support the number of new jobs as claimed by the Government. YTD wage-earner tax withholding has increased only 0.1% from 2017. This number is what it is. It would be difficult to manipulate. Despite the Trump tax cut, which really provided just a marginal benefit to wage-earners and thus only a slight negative effect on wage-earner tax withholding, the 0.1% increase is well below what should have been the growth rate in wage withholding given the alleged growth in wages and jobs. Also, most of the alleged jobs created in October were the product of the highly questionable “birth/death model” used to estimate the number of businesses opened and closed during the month. The point here is that true unemployment, notwithstanding the Labor Force Participation Rate, is much higher than the Government would like us to believe.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell signaled today that the well-telegraphed December rate hike is likely the last in this cycle of rate-hikes, though he intimates the possibility of one hike in 2019. More likely, by the time the first FOMC meeting rolls around in 2019, the economy will be in a tail-spin, with debt and derivative bombs detonating. And it’s a good bet Trump will be looking to sign an Executive Order abolishing the Fed and giving the Treasury the authority to print money. The $3.3 billion pension bailout proposal circulating Congress will morph into $30 billion and then $300 billion proposal. 2008 redux. If you’re long the stock market, enjoy this short-squeeze bounce while it lasts…

Is Fed Pumping Stocks To Keep Pensions Solvent?

The pension crisis is inching closer by the day. @CalPERS just voted to increase the amount cities must pay to the agency. Cities point to possible insolvency if payments keep rising but CalPERS is near insolvency itself. It may be reform or bailout soon. – Steve Westly, former California controller and CalPERS board member.

1.5 MILLION RETIREES AWAIT CONGRESSIONAL FIX FOR A PENSION TIME BOMB

In a story buried in the business section of the February 18th NY Times, it was reported that the spending budget passed by Congress included a provision that creates a 16-member bipartisan congressional committee to craft legislation that would provide for the potential bailout of as many as 200 multi-employer” pension plans. Like most State public pension plans most of these multi-employer plans are about to hit the wall of insolvency. To make matters worse, there are even financial advice companies giving out bad advice when it tells to pensions. They are telling people to switch to a risky plan but not actually telling them how risky it actually is for them to transfer across to it. If you have been a victim of mis sold pension transfer then you might want to get legal help for compensation. A multi-employer plan is a union pension plan that covers employees of union working at different companies. This minor little detail was not reported anywhere else. Pension plans can be costly and complex, leaving you in all sorts of financial difficulty, you may want to planning for your pension young and remember that financial freedom is reachable. Gaining financial freedom is easy if you really plan your expenses and use trustworthy sources and individuals to help support you and vice versa. Supporting people with their pensions is essential as you will require a lot of help, you will need to plan your chosen destination and also need expenses for devices such as wheelchairs and scooters. Refer to This Web Page for More Info on good quality wheelchairs and scooters to help you.

A good friend of mine who works at a public pension did an internal study of all major State pension plans and determined that a 10% or more decline in the stock market for an extended period of time would blow up every single public pension in the country. “Extended period of time” was defined as more than 3-4 months. Every pension fund he studied is a monthly net seller of assets in order to fund beneficiary payouts – i.e. the cash contributions from current payees into the fund plus investment returns on capital is not enough to fund current beneficiary payouts. Think about that for a moment.

As such, State pensions have dramatically ramped up their risk profile and most now invest at least 40-50% of their assets in stocks. If you include private equity allocations, the overall exposure to equity investments is 70-80%. CalPERS allocates 50% of its AUM to the stock market; the State of Kentucky is now at 60%. Historically, pension stock allocations have typically – and prudently – ranged from 25-35%.

The stock market has now experienced three 9-10% drawdowns since August 2015. Assuming the “V” move higher from the latest market plunge continues, each drawdown has been aggressively and swiftly negated by obvious Fed intervention. The Fed does not deny this allegation and even subtly alludes to a non-explicit goal of targeting asset prices.

With pensions now 50% or more invested in stocks, it seems pretty obvious that one way to inflate away the looming pension catastrophe is for the Fed to inflate the stock market. Two weeks ago the Fed reflated its balance sheet by increasing its SOMA holdings with $11 billion in mortgages. The SOMA account is the Fed’s QE account. An $11 billion SOMA injection to the banks translates into $100 billion in liquidity – through the magic of the fractional banking system – that can be pumped into the stock market. Who needs retail stool pigeons to chase extreme valuations even higher?

Most, if not all, pensions are quickly reallocating their equity investments for active to passive funds. “Passive” = indexing. This means that the Fed only has to worry about inflation the broad indices like the Dow, SPX and Nasdaq. That’s why an increasingly few number of stocks, like AMZN and Boeing, are driving the indices. There’s still plenty of stocks that continue to decline – GE, for instance.

I laugh and sometime sneer at those who think new Fed Head Jerome Powell will impose monetary discipline by raising interest rates at least up to the real rate of inflation and reduce the Fed’s balance sheet according the schedule as laid out by Yellen. After all, Powell is heavily invested in Carlyle Group, which owns many companies that are covered by union pension plans. He’s incentivized personally to keep the monetary gerbil running on the wheel.

And better yet, if the Fed can keep the pensions thinly solvent by pumping up the stock market, Congress and State Governments can defer the inevitable taxpayer bailout of public pension funds – for now.