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July 19, 2012

Fed up


In June, when the U.S. Federal Reserve extended its operation twist, stocks on Wall Street hit a speed bump, dropping for the day.

On Tuesday, when the central bank's chairman, Ben Bernanke, warned the recovery faced difficult headwinds, stocks turned around from an early slump and jumped higher.

Is the Fed becoming irrelevant or simply ineffective? Of course, the first choice is not an option. The financial system pivots on the Fed's policies, which include setting the federal fund rate, which has little drama to it, except when it moves. And lately, it doesn't move. The Fed is also not expected to tamper with the rate until at least 2014. Money will be cheap until at least then.

Inflation figures released this week show the Fed has little to fear that the current bargain basement rate will trigger an explosive bubble anywhere soon. The consumer price index was unchanged May to June and held steady for the second month at 1.7 percent on an annual basis. Core prices, which include food and energy items, rose a marginal 0.2 percent month-to-month and 2.2 percent over the 12 months ending in June. Energy prices have lately headed higher, but spent much of the first half of the year in retreat. Food prices are up 2.7 percent from June 2011.

The Fed stubbornly keeps an eye on core prices, conveniently declaring that food and energy items are separated from the data for a reason: Those prices can swing wildly and skew the data.

Bernanke on Tuesday said bluntly that federal policymakers -- known as the Open Market Committee -- project the unemployment rate will hold above 7 percent through 2014, a generous guess given the gross domestic product grew 2.5 percent July through December of 2011 and is expected to have grown 2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 "and available indicators point to a still-smaller gain in the second quarter," Bernanke said.

"The risks to economic growth have increased," he noted, pointing to fiscal difficulties in Europe and an unresolved debt burden in the United States. He missed pointing a finger at China, on which many have been leaning, but which continues to lower its own growth expectations.

Back to food and energy prices. Recently, the United States tightened its trade embargo with Iran and Tehran responded with renewed threats to close the Straits of Hormuz. Closer to home, soybean prices have risen 17 percent in the past month, while corn and wheat prices have jumped about 45 percent, as dry weather has turned a projected bumper crop year into a potential drought disaster for U.S. agriculture.

"Recent increases in food and oil prices could mean that inflation could rise again," Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson said in a statement.

That's not fair. As Bernanke said, the economy is not expected to support price increases because there are not enough well-heeled consumers out there to pay higher prices for basic necessities.

Producers, at this point, are facing increased costs with their customer base too defeated to support higher retail prices. This can slow job expansion, for what it's worth, and for the moment it isn't worth much. Wages are the icing on the cake, but consumer spending has dropped three consecutive months through June given the paltry number of new jobs -- an average of 75,000 per month in the second quarter.

Bernanke is headed for Capitol Hill Wednesday for a second day of testimony. More of the same is not likely to be received well on Wall Street, but these days that is a tough call.

In international markets Wednesday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan slid 0.32 percent, while the Shanghai composite index in China added 0.37 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell 1.11 percent, while the Sensex in India added 0.47 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia lost 0.42 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain was flat, while the DAX 30 in Germany gained 0.11 percent. The CAC 40 in France added 0.7 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 600 gained 0.22 percent.

Comments :


The Taylor Rule and various short-term yield serdaps imply a Fed funds rate at no higher than 3.75% today and 3.25% by Q1-Q2 '08 at the emerging trend of the so-called real GDP growth gap.The 3-mth. LIBOR has dipped below 5% as it did in the recession and housing bust of the early '90s and at the onset of the '01 recession. The LIBOR tends to track the Fed funds rate (reaching 1% with the Fed funds rate in '02-'03), so the LIBOR is set to plunge in the wks./mths. ahead, taking adj. mortgage rates back into the 4% range (not that many people can now qualify for them with house equity values contracting). Also note that house prices in the early '90s fell with falling rates AND a firming US$ AND falling commodities prices. Gold, oil, and other commodities are peaking here with the 9- to 10-yr. commodities cycle peak, with a 2- to 3-yr. downturn ahead.With Japan likely already in recession, the EU seeing a significant deceleration in growth, the UK housing bubble FINALLY deflating, and the US tipping toward or already in recession, China-Asia is set for a HARD landing, reducing demand for commodities and pushing commodities prices lower with a firming of the US$. Oh, and BTW, at the current rate of growth of Chinese real GDP (a suicidally inflationary and crash-bound 10-11%) and the rate of liquid fossil fuel reserves/production/consumption, China will consume the vast share of liquid fossil fuel production/supplies on/in the planet by mid-century. In the context of western geopolitical/geoeconomic interests going forward, there is absolutely no way that the US, UK, EU, and Russia can permit China to grow at 10% real indefinitely; thus, expect that the Anglo-American power elite will have no choice but to take actions to bring China's growth to a recessionary/deflationary screeching halt while attempting to contain militarily the "middle kingdom" indefinitely. As a consequence of western action to restrain Chinese growth and the Communist leaders' desperate attempts to obtain more energy reserves outside of the Asian region, expect US firms to begin reducing investment in Asia and repatriating Chinese bank deposits via primary dealers in Asia, the EU, UK, and elsewhere, reducing demand for Asian currencies by way of PBOC book-entry transfers of US securities from Chinese hands to US firms' hands and via increasing demand for the US$, allowing the US$ to firm just as everyone expects the US$ to collapse. The firming and/or rising US$ will put a ceiling on commodities prices, including oil and gold, with the potential for gold to fall below $500 at some point and oil falling below $50. Prepare now, as when the coming US-led, Boomer-induced debt-deflationary wave begins, it will be like a tsunami traveling at 100 mph. Don't get caught with your back to the ocean and too far from the beach. Cash will be king, and US$ liquidity will become scarce. Get your US$'s while they're still cheap!!!


Hi! Where are you getting the imifrnatoon that the Federal Reserve Contract will expire in December? This is a Myth or do you have anything to substantiate this? If so can you post it? Thank You [url=]gioxhnmlln[/url] [link=]ubdzrej[/link]


Hi! Where are you getting the inorfmation that the Federal Reserve Contract expires this December? That's a Myth or do you have concrete inorfmation to substantiate this? If so can you supply it? Thank You


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