Federal Reserve

The Psychology of Bond Investors

July 10th, 2011 3:07 am  |  by  |  Published in Debt, Economics, Federal Reserve, inflation, Money, national debt  |  Comments Off

by Michael Pento, Senior Economist at Euro Pacific Capital (www.europac.net)

Those who take issue with the outlook of Austrian economists in general, and Euro Pacific Capital in particular, have pointed to the persistence of low bond yields as proof that our philosophy does not hold water. We argue that as the United States takes on ever more debt and prints greater quantities of dollars, that buyers of our debt will demand higher rates of interest to compensate for greater risk.  In fact, our philosophy leads us to believe that rates would currently be spiking as Washington debates whether to raise the debt ceiling yet again or default on existing debt. Instead, rates are hitting close to multi-year lows. As a result, our critics have found a seemingly valid issue. However, we believe that there are strong market reasons that are holding rates low for now that do not invalidate our central thesis.

Looked at objectively, there are a litany of reasons why rates should be much higher than they are.  Official government data from the Labor Department has year over year consumer inflation rising at 3.4%. With the Ten year note offering a paltry 3.1%, negative real interest rates now extend out over a decade! At the same time, total non-financial debt as a percentage of GDP is at the highest level on record and in our view there are no credible projections that show the trend reversing anytime soon. In addition, with the end of quantitative easing, the Federal Reserve will apparently no longer be soaking up 75% of all new Treasury issuance. Given this, does it make sense that yields on Ten Year Treasuries are trading 60% lower than their 40-year average?  Forget the flowers, where have all the global bond vigilantes gone?

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Fed Benefits from Global Fears

June 25th, 2011 10:55 pm  |  by  |  Published in Economics, Federal Reserve, gold, inflation, Money, precious metals, silver  |  Comments Off

by John Browne, Senior Market Strategist at Euro Pacific Capital

This week, in the second in a series of less-than-impressive press conferences, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke offered market observers little hope that any additional quantitative easing programs are on the horizon. The Chairman continues to cling to the position that the economy is improving (with the recent “soft patch” attributable to external forces) to the extent that additional Fed support will be unnecessary. Left unsaid was any guidance as to who the Chairman believes will buy the massive amounts of Treasury debt formerly swallowed up by the QE II program?

The logical conclusion is that Bernanke believes that there will be massive private sector demand for U.S. Treasury securities. If so, how long can it be expected to last? If the economy improves, as Bernanke expects, would it not be logical to assume that private investors would direct capital to more promising sectors than ultra low yielding U.S. sovereign debt? Clearly something does not add up. Judging by the Chairman’s halting delivery and sheepish demeanor, it appears as if he knows his position is untenable.

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Fed Stimulus Leads to Stagflation

June 5th, 2011 4:14 pm  |  by  |  Published in Economics, Federal Reserve, government spending, inflation, Money  |  Comments Off

by John Browne, Senior Market Strategist at Euro Pacific Capital

Despite the full onslaught of Keynesian economic policies, including the injection of unheard of sums of printed money into the financial system, state sanctioned accounting tricks, negative real interest rates, massive deficit spending, and debasement of the U.S. dollar, the American economy is slipping back fast towards recession. This week’s release of dismal employment figures, in which the entire economy could only muster 54,000 new jobs, confirms that fact.

It is certainly reasonable to assume that more jobs would have been lost in 2008 and 2009 if the government had not steeped in as aggressively as they had with this Keynesian barrage. But if we had chosen the less interventionist path our present reality may have been quite different. We had the opportunity then to lay the ground work for a real recovery. This was a theme that I continually stressed at the time.  Instead, our leaders chose the time worn strategy of inflation as an economic cure all. It hasn’t worked, and our economy is far worse now as a result.

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Training Wheels Off, Crash Helmets On

May 20th, 2011 10:04 pm  |  by  |  Published in Economics, Federal Reserve, inflation, Money  |  Comments Off

by Michael Pento, Senior Economist at Euro Pacific Capital (www.europac.net)

Based on many pronouncements by economic policy makers, reams of articles by the top financial journalists and near continuous discussion on the financial news channels, it appears that the quantitative easing juggernaut that has steamed the high seas of macroeconomics for the last three years is finally pulling into port…supposedly for the last time. According to the dominant narrative, QEI and QEII helped stabilize the economy during the Great Recession and now the Federal Reserve is ready to take the training wheels off. If so, the economy may need a helmet because there is virtually no chance that it can avoid major contractions without central banking support.

It is ironic, but there is no doubt that the proposed removal of artificial stimulus would be the best thing for the country in the long term. But very few observers understand how it will inflict short term pain. So confident is the Fed that earlier this week, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard indicated that any notion of additional quantitative easing is off the table. In fact, he said the central bank may tighten policy in 2011 by allowing its balance sheet to shrink. Investors would do well to remember that Bullard was the first Fed official to support the second round of bond purchases now known as QEII. It is likely that he will make a similar reversal if the economy shows any signs of weakening in the months ahead.

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Raising the Roof on Debt

May 18th, 2011 8:10 pm  |  by  |  Published in Economics, Federal Reserve, inflation, Money, national debt, Peter Schiff, Taxes  |  Comments Off

by Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, and host of The Peter Schiff Show, broadcasting live from WSTC Norwalk CT from 10am to noon Eastern time every weekday, and streaming at www.schiffradio.com.

Today the U.S. government officially borrowed beyond its $14.29 trillion statutory debt limit. And even though the Obama administration has assured us that accounting gimmickry will allow the government to borrow for another few months, the breach has given seeming urgency to Congressional negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans are making a great show of acting tough by linking their “yes” votes with promises for future budget cuts (that could even slow the rate of debt increases at some uncertain point in the future). But as we go through the process, many novice observers may wonder why we have a debt ceiling at all when our government has never shown the slightest inclination to respect its prior self-imposed limits.

The ceiling was first imposed in 1917 as part of a deal that passed the Liberty Bond Act that funded America’s entry into the First World War. To make it easy for the Treasury to sell those bonds, Congress also amended the Federal Reserve Act to allow the Fed to hold government bonds as collateral. But given the potential for unchecked Federal deficits, Congress sought to limit taxpayer exposure to $11.5 billion.

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Bernanke Double Talk Creates Opportunity

May 13th, 2011 10:11 pm  |  by  |  Published in congress, Debt, Economics, Federal Reserve, national debt, Politics  |  Comments Off

by John Browne, Senior Market Strategist at Euro Pacific Capital

When Fed Chairmen speak, the public is supposed to listen; and, historically, they have. Yet, Chairman Bernanke’s remarks at his historic first press conference were met by a tidal wave of skepticism. Although many of the mainstream outlets, especially those lucky enough to be granted question slots, characterized his performance as “serious” and “masterful,” most rank-and-file Americans were left with a very different impression.

Any casual glance at the broad internet coverage of the event shows that the public is deeply skeptical of Mr. Bernanke and the actions he is taking. If that skepticism runs more than skin-deep, it could herald a fundamental change in American politics and a restoration of sound finance in America. Already politicians seem to be taking notice.

The struggle over raising the national debt ceiling has prompted many members of Congress to talk about a negotiated and practical plan to slash government spending. The early posturing has begun. While much of it is merely window dressing, as politicians continue to escalate their rhetoric, they will eventually be forced to actually do something to make good on their promises. Their mouths are writing checks that their budget proposals may have to cash.

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The Institutional Gold Rush

May 5th, 2011 10:26 pm  |  by  |  Published in Economics, Federal Reserve, gold, inflation, Money, precious metals, silver  |  Comments Off

by Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Precious Metals and author of the hit economic parable How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes

I have worked on Wall Street my entire life, and one thing I’ve learned is that large institutional investors, like pension funds and endowments, rarely veer from the herd. They manage too much of other people’s money to stick their necks out alone – if their investments go bad, at least they can point to everyone else who fared just as poorly.

For this reason, these funds are often lagging in their perception of crucial market changes – changes such as a doomed currency. While many of us are buying precious metals to hedge against the collapse of the dollar, gold and silver have been taboo investments on Wall Street for years. Fund managers are taught that gold is a “barbarous relic” – much better to stick with government bonds and blue-chip stocks. That’s what everyone else is doing.

But there are early signs that the herd is changing direction.

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Bernanke Falls Flat

April 29th, 2011 11:21 pm  |  by  |  Published in Debt, Economics, Federal Reserve, gold, gold standard, inflation, Money, national debt, precious metals, silver  |  Comments Off

by John Browne, Senior Market Strategist at Euro Pacific Capital

Despite loud huzzahs from a variety of boosters who proclaimed that Chairman Bernanke spoke with gravitas and wisdom at the first ever Federal Reserve press conference, the wider investing public clearly saw the performance as unconvincing. During and immediately after the proceedings the prices of gold and silver rose strongly to new highs as the U.S. dollar plummeted. The affair seemed to solidify the understanding that Bernanke and his cohorts have no intention whatsoever to reverse the current trend of inflation and a weakening dollar.

With all the preliminaries swept away, it appears that the great dollar slide that we have long feared will not be interrupted. In the last year alone, the dollar has fallen 25 per cent against the Swiss Franc, (the gold standard of fiat currencies) – with one quarter of that decline coming since the beginning of April alone. Against gold itself (the gold standard of all forms of money), the decline has been even worse, 31 per cent so far this year, and 8 per cent this month.

Ominously, the dollar index (the broadest measure of dollar strength) is just a percentage point or two above the all time lows that it set before the financial panic of 2008 sent spooked investors into the apparent safety of America’s deep and liquid Treasury market. It appears that spell has now been fully broken.

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Silver Set to Soar as Paper Folds?

April 21st, 2011 11:38 pm  |  by  |  Published in Economics, Federal Reserve, gold, government spending, inflation, Money, precious metals, silver  |  Comments Off

by John Browne, Senior Market Strategist at Euro Pacific Capital

As a result of active “demonetization” efforts by the IMF and its member central banks, gold and silver have experienced the type of volatility that has given conservative investors reasons not to perceive the metals as dependable cash alternatives. Instead gold and silver have become known as the asset class to hold as a hedge against inflation.

However, during the 1990′s, when inflation was in general much higher than it has been since the turn of the millennium, gold and silver prices drifted lower and stagnated. However, since 2000, gold and silver have risen by over 400 and 700 percent respectively. Remarkably, this has occurred over a time frame during which, by most accounts, low inflation has prevailed.  How can this be explained?

In 1944 when the U.S. dollar was considered ‘as good as gold,’ it was made the international reserve currency. This unique status is the reason that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was recently able to say that, “The U.S. Government has a technology, called the printing press that allows it to produce as many dollars at it wishes at essentially no cost.”

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Inflation Destroys Real Wages

April 19th, 2011 3:16 am  |  by  |  Published in Economics, Federal Reserve, inflation, Money  |  Comments Off

by Michael Pento, Senior Economist at Euro Pacific Capital (www.europac.net)

In the same vein as medieval physicians believed bloodletting would cure illness, modern snake-oil economists still perilously cling to their claim that rising wages and salaries are the cause of inflation. With my recent debates with these mainstream economists, I’ve heard the following: “without rising wages, where does the money come from to push prices higher?” I was tempted to respond, “where do the employers get the money to pay those higher wages?” But economists tend to get a little nasty when you make them feel stupid.

It is actually the predominant belief that wages and salaries rise before aggregate price levels in the economy and thus during periods of rising inflation, real wages are always increasing. However, economic history has proven over and over again that real wages actually decrease during periods of rising inflation. Nominal incomes do increase, but this is merely a response to the inflation that has already been created.

The essence of this folly is that modern economists don’t have a firm grasp on the mechanics of inflation. At the most basic level, inflation comes from too much money chasing too few goods. The battle against rapidly rising inflation always has its genesis from a central bank that prints money in order to monetize the nation’s debt.

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