Tag Archives: repo operations

What Is The Fed Hiding With Its “Repo” Operations?

I’m not sure why Trump continues incessantly to harangue the Fed about cutting the Fed Funds rate. The Fed is printing money and sending it to the stock market via the banks. It’s a much more effective policy tool to accomplish Trump’s number one policy agenda, which is to drive the stock market inexorably higher.

I put “repo” in quotes because the term is a thin veil for what is indisputably the return of “QE” money printing.   The statement posted on the Fed’s website announcing the $60 billion per month T-bill purchase operation “explained” that the move is “to ensure that the supply of reserves remains ample even during periods of sharp increases in non-reserve liabilities, and to mitigate the risk of money market pressures that could adversely affect policy implementation.”

I use quotes around “explained” because the policy statement is nebulous. The non-reserve liability on the Fed’s balance consists primarily of the money it prints and releases into circulation. Increasing “non-reserve” liabilities is a fancy term for “printing money.” The T-bill “operation” is funded by printing money. The Fed transmits this money into the banking system – not the real economy – by purchasing the T-bills. Presumably as the T-bills mature, the Fed receives the new T-bills printed and issued by the Treasury used to refinance the existing T-bills. The T-bill operation permanently injects money into the financial system.

I surveyed some friends/colleagues who know at least as much as I do about money market fund operations.  None of us can figure out  the nature of the potential  “money market pressures” referenced by the Fed.  Perhaps the Fed fears a run on money market funds by corporations and the public?  Anyone…Bueller?

The original repo operations in September were supposedly to address third quarter-end liquidity pressures because corporations need cash to pay taxes.  Since the passing of the third quarter, the repo operations have escalated to more than double the size of the original repo operation.

I’m not the only one who has noticed the Fed’s furtive behavior. Pam and Russ Martin – Wall Street on Parade –  encountered the same roadblock I ran into this past weekend when I tried to pull up the Markets & Policy Implementation and the repo operations web pages: “Site Maintenance – the page you are looking for is temporarily unavailable.”  The pages were “temporarily unavailable” all weekend.

I have yet to encounter one reasonable explanation for the reimplementation of money printing – money printing which accelerates in size and frequency almost weekly.  Make no mistake, the Fed-apologetic  Wall Street analysts have no clue what’s happening or why.

We know that the Fed used printed and Taxpayer money to bail out the banks in 2008.  These “Too Big To Fails” would have collapsed without the bailout.  The Fed is going out of its way – with help from the Wall Street and media sycophants – to obscure the truth.  But it’s pretty obvious, at least to me, that big bank balance sheets are starting to melt down again.

Stocks Bubble Up From More Money Printing

The stock market spiked up last week as Trump started in with his trade war optimism tweets, which excited the algos and momentum chasers. As Monday rolled around, however,  it was determined that a “Phase 1” trade agreement amounted to nothing more than a commitment from China to buy some farm products. On Tuesday China made the purchases contingent on Trump removing tariffs. So there is no “Phase 1” trade deal.

But the hedge fund computers don’t care.  Now the market is bubbling higher on the reimplementation of Federal Reserve money printing. Call it whatever your want – QE, balance sheet growth, term repos, whatever. But the bottom line is that Fed is printing money and injecting it into the banking system, which thereby acts as a transmission mechanism channeling some portion of this liquidity into the stock market.

The semiconductor sector is traveling higher at the fastest rate as hedge fund computers and daytraders are chasing the highest beta stocks up the most. The SOXX index is pressing its all-time today.   This is in complete disregard to underlying fundamentals in the sector which are melting down precipitously.

For the 1st ten days of October, exports from South Korea fell 8.5% YoY with chip exports down a staggering 27.2%. Remember back in January when the CEO of Lam Research forecast an upturn in 2H of 2019? Does that look like an industry upturn? Two of the world’s five largest chip manufacturers are based in S Korea:  Samsung is the world’s largest and Hynix is ranked fourth.

Today the Fed’s daily money printing repo program surged to $87.7 billion, which is the highest since “QE Renewed”  began in mid-September.  Recall back then the popular Orwellian narrative explained that the “temporary” funding was necessary  to address quarter-end cash needs by corporations and banks.  Well, certainly the banks need the money…

But on Friday the Fed announced that it was going to extend the overnight and term repo operations at least until January. In addition, the Fed added a  $60 billion per month T-bill purchasing program. The Fed explained that it was implementing the  operation to supplement the liability side of its balance sheet.  Besides currency and coin issued by the Fed, deposits from “depository institutions” –  aka demand deposits from banks – represent the largest liability on the Fed’s balance sheet.

This means that this liability account needs more funding because either bank customers are holding less cash at banks OR banks need to increase reserves to maintain regulatory reserve ratios. The latter issue would imply that bank assets – aka loans – are deteriorating more quickly than the banks can raise the funds needed to meet reserve requirements. Given the recent data on MZM, it would appear that customer cash deposits at banks have increased recently. This implies that banks are experiencing stress in the performance of the loans and derivatives on their balance sheet, thereby requiring more reserve capital.

Money printing apologists want to point at DB or JPM as the target of the Fed’s money printing.  And I’m certain they are among the largest contributors to the problem.   But GS, MS, BAC, HSBC, C should be included in there as well.  They’re all connected via derivatives and I’m guessing subprime asset exposure at all the big banks is blowing up,  causing cash flow shortfalls and counterparty derivatives defaults on credit default and interest rate swaps.  Just look at the dent  WeWork is putting into the exposure to the failed unicorn at JPM and GS.  Then there’s the melt-down going in energy/shale sector debt…

Eventually the Fed will have to announce that it is permanently implementing temporary liquidity relief programs – or “organic” balance sheet growth operations.  Jerome Powell will take painstaking measures to assure the market this is not Quantitative Easing.   And he’ll be right. That’s because it is outright money printing.

I expect the stock markets to get a temporary “meth” fix that pushes the SPX back up to the 3,000 area of resistance.  I also expect that it will fail there again, triggering a sharp sell-off into the end of the year, similar to last year. The risk the Fed is running here by using more money printing to juice the stock market is that eventually – like all heroin or meth addicts – stocks will become immune to increasing doses of the happy drug.   At what point will the Fed be forced administer a dosage level that kills the market?

The Dutch Central Bank Endorses The Gold Standard

“De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) holds more than 600 tonnes of gold. A bar of gold always retains its value, crisis or no crisis. This creates a sense of security. A central bank’s gold stock is therefore regarded as a symbol of solidity Shares, bonds and other securities are not without risk, and prices can go down. But a bar of gold retains its value, even in times of crisis.” – DNB’s Gold Stock

The quote above is from the “Payments” section of the Dutch Central Bank’s website. Incredibly, it goes on to suggest the possibility of  a systemic collapse: “If the system collapses, the gold stock can serve as a basis to build it up again.”

It’s been 48 years since the U.S. Government unplugged the gold standard, thereby enabling the world’s Central Banks to plug in their fiat currency printing presses. This in turn gave rise to a series of asset bubbles and unfettered credit creation. Don’t forget that the junk bond bubble in the 1980’s led to an acceleration in the creation of paper money, which in turn fueled the internet/tech stock bubble, followed subprime debt/real estate bubble and  the current “everything” bubble.” Which may the last bubble…

The chart below,  shows M3/M2 vs the “real” GDP since 1971 and  illustrates the problem:

Note that the Fed discontinued publishing the M3 money supply data in 2006. The U.S. at the time was the only major industrialized country that refused to publicly disclose M3. Also note that “real” GDP is calculated using the Government’s highly muted measure of price inflation. A real real GDP line would be shifted down on the chart and project at a lower trajectory.

The difference between the two lines somewhat measures the degree to which the U.S. fiat currency has been devalued or has “lost its purchasing power.”  However, the graphic does not capture the creation of credit.  Debt issuance behaves exactly like money printing until the debt is repaid. Think about it.  A dollar borrowed and spent is no different than a dollar created by the Fed and put into the financial system.

But think about this:  since 1971, the U.S. Government has never repaid any of the debt it  issues. It has been increasing pretty much in perpetuity.  This means that $22 trillion+ issued and outstanding by the Treasury Department should be included in the money supply numbers – until the amount outstanding contracts – which it  never will…

Alasdair Macleod, in “Monetary Failure Is Becoming Inevitable,” summarizes the eventual consequence embedded in a morally hazardous currency system:

If history and reasoned economic theory is any guide, the demands for credit by the state will terminate in the destruction of government currencies. For the truth of the matter is inflation of money and credit has created the illusion we can all live beyond our income, our income being what we produce.

“Destruction of Government currencies” is really just a politically/socially polite phrase for “systemic collapse.”

Whether intentional or unintentional, the Dutch Central Bank has alluded to this possibility, which I see more as an inevitability, with just the issue of timing yet unresolved.  I would argue, however, that the financial system liquidity issues currently addressed by the reimplementation by the Fed of repo/extended repo operations – and the inclusion of foreign banks in the liquidity injections – reflects the growing instability of the global financial system.

Furthermore,  the suddenness of these systemic “tremors,” suggests that the Central Banks are losing control of a system dependent on fiat currency and credit creation that expands at an increasing rate in perpetuity.  Unfortunately for the paper money maestros running the Central Banks, the value of fiat currency approaches zero as the supply of currency and credit heads toward infinity.

In all likelihood, the recent rise in the price of gold, which has been driven by escalating demand for physical gold – notably by eastern hemisphere Central Banks – reflects the increasing visibility of an inevitable collapse in the global fiat currency system.  The Dutch Central Bank has made it clear that it sees gold as an ideal asset for wealth protection when the next crisis erupts.