The dual mandate of the Federal Reserve is a good one. It is charged with ensuring stable prices and maximum employment. That’s a good basic recipe, one which served the country well.
Ben, hope and manipulation are not trading strategies.
And notice what isn’t there. The Fed is not charged with distorting natural market pricing mechanisms to the point of perverting risk. It is not asked to promote ever increasing stock prices. It does not have to guarantee that property prices are rising. It is not asked to manipulate bond, equity or commodity markets. It is not asked to seek the profitability of ‘too big to fail/prosecute’ firms on Wall Street, or to promote their interests. It is certainly not asked to indulge in secret and complex financial transactions with no clear benefit to the wider public. Continue reading →
Here’s a piece of recent news that you almost certainly missed: A large consumer products company, Johnson & Johnson, announced a one-off loss owing to a 32 percent currency devaluation in Venezuela. The reason I expect you missed that less-than-seismic piece of news is that, unless you happen to be particularly fascinated in Johnson & Johnson, or utterly enthralled by the development of currency policy in Venezuela, you probably didn’t care.
But here’s the thing. Do you care to guess how much J&J lost thanks to that currency movement? Answer: a cool hundred million dollars. Johnson is a pretty large company, but even so. To lose a hundred million bucks? In Venezuela? That sounds a little disturbing, no? A bit like the start of one of those killer-virus horror flick, where the pretty teenager who comes down with a benign little illness ends up dying horribly as some unknown disease takes hold.
Central Planners Bernanke, Draghi & Merkel Hard at Work
How nice of you: that gift you just made to charity. No one asked you if you wanted to make the gift. No one asked you which charities you’d want to support. But still. You made it. So thanks. Well done.
If you’re confused – if, by chance, you don’t remember authorising anyone to pick your pocket to give to charity – then welcome to the world of financial services. Here’s how it works. Greedy, irresponsible morons on huge salaries and inflated bonuses take RBS, one of Britain’s leading banks, and trash it to the point of insolvency. Continue reading →
Over the coming weeks, we’re going to be hearing a lot about the ‘fiscal cliff’: the threat that some 5% of GDP is going to be ripped out of the economy in a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts. A fiscal slow-down on that scale will almost certainly trigger recession. The CBO thinks so, though their numbers look optimistic to me. (If you cut demand by 5%, more or less overnight, then you shouldn’t expect the economy to grow by more than 1% in the year following.)
The Feds solution to debt: more debt
Because the process of fiscal compromise acts itself out on the political stage – all big personalities and high drama – the media loves to report it. Loves to imply that vast questions are at stake, that political careers will stand or fall by the outcome.
But they’re not. Not really. This so-called ‘cliff’ is really just the first in a series of steps. The US budget is arguably the most distorted in the Western world. Greece and Japan may have higher debts, Italy and Portugal may have worse growth prospects – but for sheer budgetary insanity, the US is probably the world leader, combining huge current deficits with vast unfunded promises to retirees, and welfare entitlement program recipients. You don’t need to take my word for this. The IMF states, ‘under our baseline scenario, a full elimination of the fiscal and generational imbalances would require all taxes to go up and all transfers to be cut immediately and permanently by 35 percent. A delay in the adjustment makes it more costly.’ Continue reading →
Obama’s an accomplished individual. Smart, cool, in control. But his standout quality is probably his ability to create euphoria. Create it, sustain it, ride it. Watch the people celebrating with him at his victory rally in Chicago and you could easily believe that the USA had just won a war or beaten a recession.
Unfortunately for Obama, reality doesn’t have much time for speeches. The economy was dire going into the election. Coming out of it, you can almost hear the engine failing.
Let’s take the first indicator of failure – the stock market. The market mood darkened in September and October, then dropped abruptly as news of Obama’s victory sank in. I don’t actually think that’s because Wall Street hates Obama. I think it’s more that as the election hoopla dies away, investors realise how little they can expect from the government, how bad the economic situation really is. And, for that matter, how bad the political situation is. The House remains solidly Republican, the Senate comfortably Democrat – and the whole divisive status quo guaranteeing gridlock for another four years. Continue reading →
Those financial forecasters, like myself, who take a generally dark view of world affairs are known by a number of monikers: prophets of doom, killjoys, pessimists, Cassandras. And that last one is interesting.
Cassandra, in ancient Greek myth, was the daughter of King Priam of Troy. After Helen, she was considered the most beautiful woman on earth. Curly red hair, blue eyes, fair skin. (I know: she sounds more Irish than Turkish, but work with me.) Because of her beauty, the god Apollo fell in love with her and gave her the gift of prophecy. When she did not return his love – always a dangerous game when dating a god – he cursed her, ensuring no one would ever believe her prophecies. Continue reading →
QE has created the worlds biggest housing and equities bubbles in the UK markets
Last week, the Bank of England declared its intention to print another £50 billion. Hardly anyone noticed. That £50 billion will bring the Bank’s total money printing to around £425 billion, or about one quarter of British GDP. No one cares. Yesterday, the U.S. Federal Reserve announced its own plans for another round of “quantitative easing” — a euphemistic term for “destroying the currency.” Not to be left out, the ECB has announced plans for unlimited bond buying (though Germany has, thank goodness, set some limits.) Given that the bonds the ECB wants to buy are issued by increasingly bankrupt Mediterranean governments, the ECB too is doing what it can to wreck the currency it’s charged to protect.
Solution? Business secretary Vince Cable has said he wants to nationalise the 18pc of RBS that isn’t already owned by the taxpayer
Vince Cable wants to nationalise RBS. You can see his logic. The taxpayer owns 82% of the firm already. Nationalisation is hardly such a radical idea; it’s more the logical completion of a process.
It’s true that full nationalisation was never the advertised outcome. We were promised that these part-nationalised banks would be rapidly strengthened and restored to full private ownership.There were even muttered suggestions that the government could end up making a profit on its stake. Continue reading →
Before the Farcebook IPO, I wrote on my blog that Facebook was heading for a ridiculous valuation when it was launched on the stockmarket. That wasn’t because I think it’s a bad company – pretty clearly a company that makes a billion dollars in profits after only a few years of life is a remarkable creation. I have only respect for Mark Zuckerberg, its creator.
But it’s not Zuckerberg who gets to choose the company’s valuation. It’s the banks he retains to manage the transaction. I wrote that the firm was being ‘vastly and obviously overvalued at the levels currently being discussed.’
Unfortunately, I’m being proved right at sickening speed. The firm had its IPO (Initial Public Offering) on 18 May – that is, the date when its shares first began to trade on the market. Since the IPO date, the firm has lost 47% of its value, in comparison with the intraday high of $45 per share. Friday’s close was $23.70. Continue reading →
Stacy Summary: Fox Business News has just cut its entire primetime lineup. The viewer numbers are astounding. This turkey is a worse investment than MySpace! Primetime viewer numbers averaged just 54,000, which we get on many youtube versions of our show! But more than half of those numbers were from the over 54 years old – advertisers prefer the 24 – 54 age group.