Why the Fed Will Not “Taper”

Is the Fed going to “taper”? In other words, will it slow the rate of monetary expansion? When will the Fed do this?

That’s what everyone wants to know. As the central bank for the world’s biggest consumer, the Fed is especially important. Their actions have a major effect on the actions of other central banks. The Bank of Canada’s policy is in many ways a function of the Fed’s.

Canada’s head central banker Poloz will not rock the boat. He fears price deflation. The central bankers in Europe and Britain are explicitly committed to inflation. More and more central banks are joining to cause of money printing, like Japan and Australia, yet the Fed seems to be a bit of a wild card.

That’s because because of Bernanke’s remarks on June 19, where he appeared to raise the Fed’s unemployment target from 6.5% to 7%. He suggested the Fed might slow its bond purchases sooner than previously indicated.

Bernanke went out on a limb and changed the target numbers for unemployment in his speech from what was written in the FOMC report.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard was critical of Bernanke’s comments, in a wishy-washy bureaucratic sort of way. He tried to tell us that Bernanke didn’t really mean what he said. Bernanke even later came out and confirmed his position is the same as it’s always been: “When the economy gets better, we’ll stop. Someday. Maybe.”

Which sort of goes without saying. Of course the Fed plans to execute its promised “exit plan” when the economy gets better. That’s the whole idea behind extraordinary measures like quadrupling its monetary base since the 2008 crisis with QE 1-3. So what’s the big deal?

Other than Bernanke’s 7% comment, the FOMC has been very clear about what it plans to do. The position in the June 19 press release was unchanged from their March press release. The March release was the same as the January release. Literally the sameword for word.

In these press releases, the FOMC has been explicit. The Federal Reserve will maintain its current policy of QE if the US unemployment rate remains above 6.5% and price inflation remains below 2.5%.

All this debate over whether the Fed will “taper,” and all because no one seems to read what the FOMC says.

A few FOMC members said maybe they should taper later this year. But unemployment is not falling fast enough. Price inflation is not rising fast enough. The Fed’s policy is unlikely to change.

Even if it does change, and they slow the rate of monetary expansion, they will be forced to intervene again. No one mentions that there was tapering after the previous QE’s. Heck, they didn’t just taper in 2012: they actually deflated slightly.

But these little taper episodes don’t last. They simply led to further expansion later. So why not a little bit of tapering after QE3? But that will eventually necessitate QE4. When central banks begin slowing their monetary expansion, the correction will manifest and they will intervene again in desperation.

Despite this reality, economists, investors, and financial reporters are obsessed with rumors and hypotheticals because they do not understand central bank policy.

The spastic reaction of investors was very interesting. Markets fell. Yields shot up quickly as a massive $80 billion was pulled from bond funds in June. Gold briefly fell below $1200. Clearly this illustrates that this economic error cycle is perpetuated entirely by faith in central bank bureaucrats to keep the money pumping. Which is, by the way, exactly what the Austrian business cycle tells us.

You can quite clearly see how the Fed’s expansion is correlated with stock market performance in the last few years. Any time the markets have been worried, the Bernanke Fed has stepped up to deliver QE.

s&p and fed

I don’t think the Fed is communicating any kind of serious change in policy. And regardless of what they say, they are completely trapped by their own policy.

FRED Graph

The Fed cannot pull off a smooth “Exit Plan” with that monster they call a balance sheet without causing a crash far more vicious than 2008.

Is there any way the Federal Reserve could avoid this?

Actually, yes. Their asset sales would have to be offset by the releasing of commercial banks’ excess reserves into the economy. Currently these reserves are massive, corresponding to the Fed’s expansion.

Graph of Excess Reserves of Depository Institutions (DISCONTINUED SERIES)

If the Fed stopped QE entirely and started selling assets, but the banks lent out their excess reserves, you wouldn’t even notice the Fed’s exit. In fact, there would be price inflation. That’s because the fractional reserve process could generate nearly $10 trillion in new money out of those excess reserves.

But this will never happen. This becomes obvious as soon as you ask: “Why would the big banks want to release their excess reserves?”

They are not lending now, so why would they want to lend it when the Fed is selling assets and therefore bringing about a recession? The banks are hoarding their excess reserves now due to extreme uncertainty and impaired balance sheets. They are less likely to lend those funds if the Fed tapers.

But what if the Fed tapers and stops paying interest on excess reserves? Yes, the could do this if they wanted. This is a relatively new policy implemented in 2008. But halting this would have little effect.

The banks earn almost nothing on their deposits at the Fed: close to zero percent. Going from almost-zero to zero will be insufficient motivation to lend, especially when the economy is expected to slowdown. Better to make zero return than risk losing 5% or 10% or more when the economy goes bad.

But what if Bernanke went further? He could charge the banks fees and penalties for having too high a level of reserves. I do not believe he will do this because the banks would not like it. Due to counter-party risk and the danger of short-term creditors doing a bank run on a major institution, it’s least risky for the banks to hold their reserves at the Fed.

Another reason why he and other central banks will not force their big banks to lend: they fear massive inflation would result, and no one wants to deal with that. Bringing it under control would bring about a crippling depression.

An interesting possibility that should be considered is the Fed reducing the rate of QE3 just before Bernanke departs in Feb 2014. They could then safely blame him for any negative effects which follow. If the Fed announces a reduction in QE in September, that would fit with this scenario. However, I do not believe they will do this. Bernanke wants to ride off into the sunset without any additional controversy. He is not even speaking at the Jackson Hole meeting this summer, due to “personal reasons.” He wants to get out his position stealthily rather than in a flurry of disputation. He doesn’t want to push a tapering policy that will reflect badly on him as he leaves his position.

And what’s true of Bernanke is true of all the central bankers — none of them want to look bad in front of their friends. So they will continue to inflate.

CONCLUSION

After the NASDAQ bubble exploded and the US went into recession, Alan Greenspan pumped money into the economy to generate a new boom cycle. Over that time, the economy responded to the resulting misshapen financial markets with the formation of a housing bubble. Greenspan departed and Bernanke began to raise rates. The result was the 2008 crash, during which Bernanke & Friends carried out an unprecedented expansion of the monetary base. Another boom period was generated. The US stock market is again making all-time highs, optimism is much more widespread, and all forecasts and experts seem to agree that the recovery is robust and genuine. This means we are in the economic danger zone.

The Fed’s 100-year pattern of propagating booms and busts will continue either until they crash the economy by selling assets, or a monetary crisis arises that they cannot control.

The Fed may tinker with its money supply here and there, but we are a long way from any “exit plan.” Until then, don’t count on any real tapering for any significant amount of time.

Poloz Prepared to “Nourish” Economy. Translation: He Will Inflate

Poloz thinks it will be necessary to “nourish” the economy.

To a Keynesian central banker from the EDC, this means “buy assets” i.e. inflate.

The boneheaded idea that this strengthens the economy is characteristic of cranks throughout history.

Currency depreciation cannot ever boost the economy. If Poloz were to announce that he will start expanding rate of growth in the money supply, the outcome on the foreign exchange market would be for other currencies to appreciate versus the loonie. Domestic producers would want to increase exports due to increased international demand, and would borrow from commercial banks to fund production at interest rates lower than otherwise. Resources would shift away from other industries into Canadian export industries. Exporters would record higher profits, but in real terms, the citizens of Canada would be getting fewer imports for each export. Basically, Canada would gain more foreign exchange, but they would get getting fewer real goods in exchange. Canadians in general would therefore become poorer.

And those higher exporter profits? As time goes by, monetary expansion would cause prices to rise and those artificial, subsidized profits would disappear. The end result is a weaker economy where resources have been misallocated due to credit expansion and interference with market exchange rates, and along the way some politically-connected export industries would make a bit of extra money.

Poloz needs to read Mises:

The much talked about advantages which devaluation secures in foreign trade and tourism, are entirely due to the fact that the adjustment of domestic prices and wage rates to the state of affairs created by devaluation requires some time. As long as this adjustment process is not yet completed, exporting is encouraged and importing is discouraged. However, this merely means that in this interval the citizens of the devaluating country are getting less for what they are selling abroad and paying more for what they are buying abroad; concomitantly they must restrict their consumption. This effect may appear as a boon in the opinion of those for whom the balance of trade is the yardstick of a nation’s welfare. In plain language it is to be described in this way: The British citizen must export more British goods in order to buy that quantity of tea which he received before the devaluation for a smaller quantity of exported British goods.

The Canadian dollar will surely suffer under Poloz’s governance.

Mourn for the Lost Penny

Every Canadian hated pennies. Even homeless street beggars hated getting pennies. If someone dropped a penny, they wouldn’t even bother to pick it up. Every Canadian seems happy that the penny is gone.

Sadly, Canadians do not realize how this loss is truly a tragedy, because it unequivocally shows how the government and the Bank of Canada have abused the monopoly over money. If you go to the BoC website, you can see that since 1914 the Canadian dollar has lost 95% of its value.

This is the inevitable result of the age-old credo of monetary cranks and inflationists. Mises wrote:

A very popular doctrine maintains that progressive lowering of the monetary unit’s purchasing power played a decisive role in historical evolution. It is asserted that mankind would not have reached its present state of well-being if the supply of money had not increased to a greater extent than the demand for money. The resulting fall in purchasing power, it is said, was a necessary condition of economic progress. The intensification of the division of labor and the continuous growth of capital accumulation, which have centupled the productivity of labor, could ensue only in a world of progressive price rises. Inflation creates prosperity and wealth; deflation distress and economic decay.

All this time, rather than having pennies lose value until they must be eliminated, pennies should have been increasing in value. We should have been able to buy more stuff with pennies today than 50 years ago. That is how a free economy with a stable money supply works. Money is saved and invested into more production. Workers create more goods, and so the monetary unit can purchase more stuff. Instead, the Canadian government and its central bank have distorted the economy and redistributed wealth by means of monetary policy. Monopolies are always bad, and a monopolization of money is the most dangerous of all.

The death of the penny should be a blaring wake-up call to Canadians. The Bank of Canada should be shut down, the government should abolish legal tender laws, and Canadians themselves should decide what their money should be. Otherwise, expect to someday bid farewell to nickels, dimes, and even loonies as the government continues its destruction of our currency.

— Read more at the Mises.ca

Economic Ignoramus Stephen Poloz to Replace Carney as Bank of Canada Governor

So far, we don’t know much about Mr Poloz on a philosophical level.

Based on the little we do know, I think he is a bad choice. He has a PhD in economics, so he likely knows very little about economics.

We also know he has spent most of his life as a bureaucrat. Most of his career has been “public service” (cough cough) at the BoC and Export Development Canada. I’m sure he made lots of friends in the export industry there. Friends who will really appreciate a subsidy in the form of monetary inflation.

Back in late 2008, he wrote a commentary on the financial crisis. In essence, he appeals to animal spirits, like all Keynesians who are baffled by economic law. He blames it on nothing more than a change in psychology following the 9/11 attacks. Everyone had a “live for the moment” attitude, he says, and ultimately this created the housing bubble.

The first sign of failure in economic analysis is a reliance on nonscientific pop-psychology. He completely fails to identify the source of bubbles and account for why business cycles occur. The culpability of central banks is nowhere challenged. He pleads agnostic about the ability of economists to understand the cause of bubbles at all. He does not understand the Austrian theory of the business cycle.

Based on these facts, I can safely conclude he is an Keynesian/inflationist/mercantilist. Sort of like, well, all central bankers. He may prove to be better or worse than Carney. Only time will tell.

Ultimately, it matters only a little who is the head of the Bank of Canada. The system as such is the problem, and not so much the individual people in charge.

— Read more at BoC’s website — 

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