Jerome Powell Confesses

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Heaven forfend — angels and ministers of grace defend us! — the chairman of the Federal Reserve has confessed the truth.

We write from our back today, floored, still unable to recover from the blow.

For yesterday the chairman ripped the central banker’s mask from his face, and let them have it straight in the eye… and right from the shoulder.

What mighty and stupendous truth did he uncage yesterday?

Patience, dear reader, patience. You must first suffer under today’s market notes…

Can’t Shake the Coronavirus

The stock market traded at record heights today. But the coronavirus struck again this afternoon. CNBC in summary:

Equities fell sharply to start off Thursday’s session after China said it confirmed 15,152 new cases and 254 additional deaths. That brings the country’s total death toll to 1,367 as the number of people infected jumped to nearly 60,000, according to the Chinese government.

The Dow Jones ended up losing 128 points by closing whistle, to 29,423.

The S&P lost five points on the day; the Nasdaq, 14.

Gold, meantime, gained $7.30 today to close at $1,579.20.

But to return to today’s thumping question…

What sublime truth did Jerome Powell let out yesterday?

Powell’s Monetary Policy Report to the Congress

Here is the setting:

The Dirksen Senate Office Building 538, Washington, D.C. The Banking Committee of the United States Senate is in session.

Addressing the committee is the Hon. Jerome H. Powell, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

He is a man heavy with duties to the American republic…

He is delivering the semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress, in fulfillment of his obligations under the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978.

It is late morning. Committee members fight valiantly to maintain consciousness, but sleep has vanquished several.

Chins rest upon chests, rising gently at longish intervals… as if buoys bobbing in lazy ocean swells.

Faint snores can be heard above Mr. Powell’s hypnotic droning.

One dreaming senator — we had best keep his identity dark — mutters something about “your sexy lips” and a name other than his wife’s.

A swift elbow from an adjacent senator nudges him awake.

But then — of a sudden — the truth came roaring from the chairman’s mouth like fire from the mouth of a cannon…

The Truth!

Out it came, knocking us flat in the process:

“Low rates are not really a choice anymore; they are a fact of reality.”

Low rates are not really a choice anymore; they are a fact of reality.

No more talk of “normalization.” No more whim-wham about “the outlook.” No more “monitoring conditions.”

Instead, low interest rates are no longer a choice. They are a “fact of reality.”

Poor Alan Greenspan would be spinning in his grave today — if only he had a grave to spin in. Old Alan yet lives and breathes.

But does Powell not realize that a central banker’s job is to dodge, to weave, to talk… but not say?

We can only speculate that the fellow was overtaken by a temporary delirium, a transient psychosis.

But Mr. Powell’s uncharacteristic outburst of honesty gives powerful, almost invincible confirmation of our deep belief…

Our belief that the Federal Reserve can never increase interest rates by any meaningful measure.

Higher Rates Would Collapse the Walls of Jericho

High interest rates — even historically normal interest rates — would bring down the very walls of Jericho.

The entire financial and economic system would come thundering down.

Please observe the chart below. It reveals that United States private financial assets — the stock market, essentially — presently rise to an obscene 5.6 times United States GDP.

And so it puts all existing records in the shade:

IMG 1

Shriek the doom mongers of Zero Hedge:

“Any sizable drop in the stock market would lead to an almost instantaneous depression.”

We fear they are correct.

The stock market and the decade-long economic “recovery” center upon ultra-low interest rates.

A meaningful rate increase means debt service becomes an impossible burden — a crushing burden.

But returning to Chairman Powell…

“We Will Have Less Room to Cut”

Our unlikely Job was not done yesterday. He confessed another truth:

“We will have less room to cut.”

The federal funds rate presently squats between 1.5% and 1.75%. But as we have noted often, the central bank requires rates between 4% and 5% to push back recession.

Should recession invade the United States tomorrow, the Federal Reserve would enter the combat at half-strength… or less.

Thus it plans to send additional quantitative easing and “forward guidance” hurtling against the onrushing enemy.

“We will use those tools,” Mr. Powell pledged yesterday. “I believe we will use them aggressively.”

We have no doubt they will. But we are not convinced they will irritate or bother the enemy.

The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet already stretches to emergency wartime levels. And each expansion packs less wallop than the previous.

How much remains?

The Point of Diminishing Returns

Even Powell’s deputy commander — Vice Chairman Richard Clarida — recognizes the limits:

The law of diminishing returns is a very powerful force in economics, and so we have to be concerned that it may also apply to quantitative easing.

What then of “forward guidance?” Is it formidable?

No, argues our own Jim Rickards. It is a mere popgun, firing a blank cartridge:

Forward guidance lacks credibility because the Fed’s forecast record is abysmal. I’ve counted at least 13 times when the Fed flip-flopped on policy because they couldn’t get the forecast right.

Thus the forked counterattack of quantitative easing and forward guidance may prove blunt in both prongs.

But might our central bank house another weapon to punch back? Yes, it might…

The Fed Looks to the Past

The chairman and his fellows may blow the dust off another anti-recession weapon — a weapon it has not employed in 69 years.

Reveals The Wall Street Journal:

As part of their contingency planning for the next recession, Federal Reserve officials are looking at a stimulus scheme the U.S. last used during and after World War II.

But what could it be?

From 1942 until 1951, the Fed capped yields on Treasury securities — first on short-term bills and later on longer-term bonds — to help finance war spending and the recovery.

Placing caps on Treasury yields. That is the anti-recession weapon under consideration.

This scheme involves intricacies far too subtle and delicate for our dull understanding.

We therefore enlist the Journal to help penetrate the mystery:

Yield caps would be a cousin to QE. In QE, the Fed committed to purchasing fixed amounts of long-term securities. With yield caps, by contrast, the Fed would commit to purchase unlimited amounts at a particular maturity to peg rates at the target.

The goals of either approach are similar: drive down longer-term interest rates to encourage new spending and investment by households and businesses…

Some officials think capping yields could deliver the same amount of stimulus while acquiring fewer securities than they did through their bond-buying programs from 2012 until 2014, when the Fed purchased more than $1.6 trillion in Treasury and mortgage securities.

Do you understand it now? Below you will find our email address. Please contact us at your earliest convenience. For we do not understand it.

Breaking the Invisible Hand of Capitalism

Yet of this we are certain:

Capping Treasury yields — whatever it is — represents a further warfare upon the free and open market, further violence against transparency and honesty.

It seizes Adam Smith’s invisible hand of capitalism… and snaps another finger in two. Few remain as is.

What is it then but a gloved admission — that all previous central bank offensives have failed in their aims?

That is, a concession that they have failed to yield a healthy, prosperous and sustainable economy.

Ten years of them and victory remains as elusive as ever before.

Yet to paraphrase the good Chairman Powell, they are now facts of reality. And they will remain facts of reality… until they are proven fictions of reality.

But this much we will say for the chairman:

He is finally honest about it…

Regards,

Brian Maher
Managing editor, The Daily Reckoning

The post Jerome Powell Confesses appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Capitalism Is Broken

This post Capitalism Is Broken appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The announcement came rolling from the Eccles Building at 2 p.m. Eastern…

No rate hike today.

Jerome Powell has decided to sit on his hands — for now.

In his very words:

It’s important that monetary policy not overreact to any one data point… The FOMC will closely monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook and will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion.

That is precisely why the next move will be a rate cut.

We have reckoned lots lately about the inverted yield curve… and the recessionary menace it represents.

The 10-year versus 3-month yield curve recently inverted to its lowest level since April 2007.

Meantime, 10-year Treasury yields hover at two-year lows — 2.04%. One Bloomberg opinion piece instructs us to prepare for 1% yields.

As the old-timers know… the bond market gives a truer economic forecast than the chronically dizzied stock market.

Meantime, the New York Fed’s recession model reveals a 30% probability of recession within the next year.

It last gave those same odds in July 2007 — merely five months before the Great Recession was underway.

JP Morgan places the odds of recession in the second half of this year at 40%.

And Morgan Stanley gives a 60% likelihood of recession within the next year — the highest since the financial crisis.

Yes, the Federal Reserve will soon be cutting rates.

One clue?

Conspicuously absent from today’s statement was the word “patient.” Thus Mr. Powell telegraphs that he is ready to move.

Federal funds futures presently give nearly 90% odds of a July rate cut.

The market further expects as many as three rate cuts by this time next year — perhaps four.

We are compelled to restate the blindingly obvious:

The Federal Reserve has lost its race with Old Man Time.

The opening whistle blew in December 2015… when Janet Yellen came off the blocks with a 0.25% rate hike.

If the Federal Reserve could cross the 4% finishing line in time, it could tackle the next recession with a full barrel of steam.

Alas… it never made it past 2.50%.

The Federal Reserve cannot return to “normal.”

The stock market will yell blue murder and take to violent rebellion if it tried — as happened last December.

No, Wall Street has Mr. Powell in its hip pocket — as it had Janet Yellen, as it had Ben Bernanke, as it had Alan Greenspan before him.

But it is not only the Federal Reserve…

Last year the world’s major central banks were pledging to “normalize.”

But now they are in panicked retreat…

All have taken to their heels, hoofing 180 degrees the other way.

For example:

Both the Bank of Japan and European Central Bank are now gabbling openly about rate cuts and/or additional quantitative easing.

“It’s all in the open now. Front and center. The new global easing cycle has begun before the last one ended.”

This is the considered judgment of Sven Henrich, he of NorthmanTrader.

We must agree.

Yet the central banks have only themselves to blame…

They grabbed hold of the poisoned apple during the financial crisis.

They gulped… and took the first fateful nibble. It proved nectar to the stock market.

Encouraged by the results, they soon munched the full dose… and later went plowing through the entire tainted orchard:

Zero interest rates, QE 1, 2 and 3 — Operation Twist — the lot of it.

Even with trade war raging and recession hovering, stocks are within 1% of record heights.

And so the banks are too far gone in sin to turn back now.

Their greatest casualty?

Capitalism itself.

Henrich on the wages of central bank sin:

Let’s call a spade a spade: Equity markets and capitalism are broken. Neither can function on any sort of growth trajectory without the helping hand of monetary stimulus. Global growth figures, expectations and projections are collapsing all around us and markets are held up with promises of more easy money, in fact are jumping from central bank speech to central bank speech while bond markets scream slowdown.

We fear Mr. Henrich is correct.

We further fear capitalism will get another good round pummeling in the years to come…

The Federal Reserve’s false fireworks will land as duds against the next recession.

Cries will then go out for the artificial savior of government spending — Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

Free college tuition… universal Medicare… jobs for all… a $15 minimum wage…a possible Green New Deal…

These and more will be in prospect.

Politicians will go running through the Treasury as a bull runs through a china shop… and leave the nation’s finances a shambles.

Only then — too late — will they discover that debt and deficits matter after all…

Regards,

Brian Maher
Managing editor, The Daily Reckoning

The post Capitalism Is Broken appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Here’s Why ‘A’ Students Work for ‘C’ Students

This post Here’s Why ‘A’ Students Work for ‘C’ Students appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

John Bogle, an entrepreneur, true capitalist and the founder of one of the world’s largest mutual fund companies, wrote in his book The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism concerns about the retirement system as a whole.

We’re in a crisis. But luckily, there’s a solution for those smart enough to listen.

He takes aim at CEOs of investment firms and believes retirement is going to be the next big financial crisis in this country. That’s a big deal, especially with so many people relying on distant retirement accounts to provide for their future security.

Bogle, an insider in the mutual fund industry, is disturbed by the greed he sees in his industry.

He says, “When I came into this business there were relatively small, privately held companies, and these companies were run
by investment professionals. Today, that has changed in every single respect. These are giant companies. They are not privately held anymore. They are owned by giant financial conglomerates, whether it’s Deutsche Bank, Marsh & McLennan, or Sun Life of Canada. Basically, the largest portion of mutual fund assets are run by financial conglomerates, and they are in the business to earn a return on their capital in the business—and not a return on your capital.”

Bogle points out that in mutual funds, you, as the investor, put up 100% of the money and take 100% of the risk. The mutual fund company puts up no money, takes no risk, and yet keeps 80% of the returns.

The investor gets back 20% of the gains (if there are even gains).

Warren Buffett Agrees

Warren Buffett is regarded as one of the greatest investors of our time. He is a capitalist. He is an entrepreneur. He is not a managerial capitalist. (Managerial capitalists are not entrepreneurs. They did not start the business. They do not own the business. As managerial capitalists, they have responsibilities, but take no personal financial risks).

This is what Warren Buffett has to say about these corporate money managers, managerial capitalists, most of whom are “A” students from great schools. He says, “Full-time professionals in other fields, let’s say dentists, bring a lot to the layman. But in the aggregate, people get nothing for their money from professional money managers.”

If this is true, it might be stated another way: Those who choose not to become financially educated or play an active role in their investments and, instead, turn their money over to professional money managers, are abdicating responsibility for their financial future—and, if Buffett is on target, getting little value for it. How great is the risk of turning your money over to a “professional” who brings little value to the undertaking of making your money work for you?

The Future of Education

Since the beginning of time, all a child had to do was focus on two types of education. They were:

  1. Academic Education: This education supports the general skills of learning how to read, write, and solve math problems. This is an extremely important education.
  2. Professional Education: This education provides more specialized skills to earn a living. The top students, the “A” students, become doctors, accountants, engineers, lawyers, or business executives. Other schools at this level are trade schools for students who want to become mechanics, construction workers, cooks, nurses, secretaries, and computer programmers.

What was missing?

Financial Education.

This is the level of education not found in our school system. This is the education of the future. Again, we advise kids to go to school to get a job and work for money, yet we teach them little or nothing about money.

The statistics tell a sad and sobering story: While 90 percent of students want to learn more about money, 80 percent of teachers do not feel comfortable teaching the subject. Someday, financial education will be part of the curriculum of all schools, but not in the near future.

Bureaucrats: “B” Students

The vast majority of students who graduate from our schools are “B” students. They’re taught, by and large, by “A” students, some of the brightest students who continue their education to become teachers. What becomes of those “B” students as they choose their path in life? It’s my opinion that they become bureaucrats.

My poor dad did well in school as an “A” student. He did well as a bureaucrat in the government.

Unfortunately, when it came to money, business, and investing, he missed out on the opportunity to gain real world knowledge. He could not survive in the cutthroat world of the big business and investment, while the “C” students and dropouts Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and hundreds of others find and develop their genius as true capitalists.

My rich dad was a dropout. He had to leave school to help run his family business. While he didn’t get a degree, he did get an education—running a business in the real world.

Using his education in the real world, my rich dad built a huge real estate empire and hired many “A” students to run his company. He did not need to be a valedictorian to be successful in the real world.

Rich Dad said, “The problem with the world is that it’s now run by bureaucrats.” He defined a bureaucrat as those in a position of authority—such as a CEO, president, sales manager, or government official—but who take no personal financial risks. Explaining further, he said, “A bureaucrat can lose a lot of money, but they do not lose any of their own money. They get paid, whether they do a good job or not.”

Rich dad said, “A true capitalist, an entrepreneur, knows how to take a dollar and turn it into a hundred dollars. Give a bureaucrat a dollar, and they’ll spend a hundred.”

And we wonder why we have a global financial crisis.

Become a “C” Student

Today, millions of people are relying on “B” students, bureaucrats taught by “A” students, from their financial well-being. The problem is that they don’t have your well-being in mind. They have theirs.

The message is simple: Success in the classroom does not ensure success in the real world. The world of the future belongs to those who can embrace change, see the future and anticipate its needs, and respond to new opportunities and challenges with creativity and agility and passion.

If you want to be rich and successful, traditional education, while helpful, is not enough. You need a strong financial education too; it’s an investment that pays dividends year after year.

How do you combat this? By becoming a “C” student—a capitalist.

Whether by investing or starting a business, you have to take control of your money and your retirement, not trust it in the hands of those who don’t have your best interests in mind.

Today, I encourage you to start learning how to make your own money work for you—not others.

Regards,

Robert Kiyosaki

Robert Kiyosaki
Editor, Rich Dad Poor Dad Daily

The post Here’s Why ‘A’ Students Work for ‘C’ Students appeared first on Daily Reckoning.