David Kirkpatrick

August 30, 2010

Job market, other indicators weak — double dip recession on the horizon?

Looks like not if the Fed can help it. This is likely to be a week full of not so good economic news, and if that scenario comes to pass there’ll be a lot of talk about a “double dip” recession.  And make no mistake, the talk will be justified. I’m not sure what fiscal tools Bernanke has left in the box, but there seems to be agreement that he’ll go more chainsaw and less scalpel to avoid a double-dipper. I guess we’ll see …

From the link:

With little support in Congress for a renewed burst of government spending, the burden of rescuing a lagging recovery falls upon the nation’s central bank. The Fed already has kept its benchmark lending rate near zero for almost two years, and has tried to further loosen credit via unusual asset purchases, known as “quantitative easing.” In a speech Friday, Bernanke said the Fed would take additional “unconventional measures if it proves necessary, especially if the outlook were to deteriorate significantly.”

He told an audience of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyo., that the Fed could spur growth by:

•Expanding its $2 trillion balance sheet with additional purchases of long-term securities.

•Announcing plans to keep its benchmark interest rate near zero for “a longer period than is currently priced into the markets.”

•Or reducing the minuscule interest banks earn on deposits with the central bank.

Bernanke said the Fed must balance the benefits of employing unconventional monetary policy tools against their costs. Overly aggressive action could raise doubts that the Fed would be able to unwind its extraordinary assistance once the economy recovers.

August 12, 2010

Over 50% of Treasuries held by US investors

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:19 pm

For the first time in three years.

From the link:

For the first time since the start of the financial crisis in August 2007, U.S. investors own more Treasuries than foreign holders.

Mutual funds, households and banks have boosted the domestic share of the $8.18 trillion in tradable U.S. debt to 50.2 percent as of May, according to the most recent Treasury Department data. The last time holdings were as high, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke cut interest rates for the first time between scheduled policy meetings as losses in subprime mortgages spurred a flight from riskier assets.

April 29, 2009

The economy stumbles on

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:49 pm

It’s not imploding, but it’s not getting better just yet. Watch the indicators — such as the still falling GDP and rising unemployment, and on the positive side a rising consumer confidence — before you believe any media hype.

For the most part the media ignored this story until it reached crisis level (I’ve been blogging about the financial meltdown since the first days of this blog) and then went into full “we’re doomed!” mode. After scaring the pants off of everyone, the media is now going with things are better and the worst is over. Don’t go to the bank with that bill of goods.

Here’s the latest from the Fed:

Taking fresh stock of economic and financial conditions, Federal Reserve policymakers are considering whether they need to take additional measures to ease the recession.

Most economists are betting there won’t be any major announcements Wednesday at the end of a two-day meeting given the Fed’s bold $1.2 trillion move just last month to revive the economy.

Still, analysts aren’t ruling anything out as credit and financial stresses persist and a new potential danger has arisen to the economy in the form of the swine flu outbreak.

“Never say never with these guys. But I don’t think they have a real reason to increase support at this time,” said Michael Feroli, economist at JPMorgan Economics.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues are all but certain to leave the targeted range for its key bank lending rate between zero and 0.25 percent.

January 6, 2009

Watch out for deflation

You may be lamenting the outrageous cost of the bailout, you might have been hurt by the credit crunch and you are most likely gearing up for a 2009 full of only one certainty — that the entire year will be filled with nothing but uncertainty.

After all that, who’s this boogyman breathing hot, rancid air down the back of your neck? Deflation.

From the link:

Deflation, the steadily falling prices that are a byproduct of the virulent global recession and financial-market weakness, has emerged as a top danger for monetary policy markets in the U.S. and Europe, top central bankers made clear Sunday.

In separate comments, Lucas Papademos, the number-two official at the European Central Bank, and Janet Yellen, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, and one of the most influential officials at the Fed, said that they would quickly seek to contain the danger of deflation if it emerges in coming months.

Their remarks came at he American Economics Association convention.

Yellen said the U.S. faces a clear risk of deflation: “The odds are high that over the next few years, inflation will decline below desirable levels.”

To keep falling prices from becoming entrenched, the Fed would have to make it clear to the financial markets that such an outcome is unacceptable.

“I am optimistic that, by clearly communicating the Fed’s commitment to low and stable inflation and by backing that commitment up with determined policy actions should the need arise, any deflationary pressures caused by the weak economy can be contained,” Yellen said.

Total bailout cost heading toward $8T

Yep, you read that right — eight trillion dollars. Corporate socialism to the tune of eight trillion dollars. Obama’s plan looks to be in the $700 billion range.

The system, the markets and capitalism have failed on a massive scale. This might simply be a correction in the markets — a correction we are circumventing with this massive bailout — but it’s hard not to place at least some blame at the feet of the economic policies (and lack thereof) of the Bush 43 regime.

There’s a reason Congress feels the need to look into the incompetence of the SEC of the last several years. Instead of competent smaller government, Bush seems to have pressed for bloated government at every step (Department of Homeland Security, anyone) and increasing incompetence across the board with each stride.

With the ongoing financial crisis and this bailout, it really feels like Main Street is full of flaming bags of shit and the taxpayers are being forced to start stomping.

From the first link way up there in the first graf:

Sitting down? It’s time to tally up the federal government’s bailout tab.

There was $29 billion for Bear Stearns, $345 billion for Citigroup. The Federal Reserve put up $600 billion to guarantee money market deposits and has aggressively driven down interest rates to essentially zero.

The list goes on and on. All told, Congress, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and other agencies have taken dozens of steps to prop up the economy.

Total price tag so far: $7.2 trillion in investment and loans. That puts a lot of taxpayer money at risk. Now comes President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, some details of which were made public on Monday. The tally is getting awfully close to $8 trillion.

Obama’s plan would combine tax cuts with infrastructure job creation efforts. Economists say it could serve as an integral piece to the government’s remaining economic recovery puzzle.

“This plan will be the first direct tool to make additions to disposable income,” said Lyle Gramley, an economist with Stanford Group and former Fed governor. “None of the other efforts have done that directly.”

December 2, 2008

T-bills lookin’ good, interest under one percent looming?

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:44 pm

The Fed has gone all topsy-turvy. I’m not certain what to make of this news.

From the link:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke signaled he’s ready to dig deeper into the central bank’s toolkit after cutting interest rates almost as much as he can, opening the door to a shift by policy makers this month.

Bernanke yesterday said he may use less conventional policies, such as buying Treasury securities, to revive the economy, because his room to lower the main U.S. rate from the current 1 percent level is “obviously limited.” Even so, reducing the rate is “certainly feasible,” he said.

Policy makers may decide at their next meeting Dec. 15-16 on the details of carrying out such a shift, which might resemble the “quantitative easing” strategy the Bank of Japan pursued in 2001-2006 after driving interest rates close to zero. The Fed chief’s readiness to rely more on adding reserves to the banking system prompted JPMorgan Chase & Co. economist Michael Feroli to refer to him as “Bernanke-san” in a note yesterday.

August 23, 2008

US Treasury about to begin reneging on debts?

Maybe, according to Gerald O’Driscoll, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former vice president and economic adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed from yesterday.

From the intro:

Will the U.S. Treasury repudiate its obligations to its creditors, be they citizens or investors around the world? Most observers would answer “no” without hesitation. But Congress, with the complicity of the White House and the Fed, has arguably embarked on a stealth repudiation.

In his famous treatise, “The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith noted there had never been a “single instance” of sovereign debts having been repaid once “accumulated to a certain degree.” We may have reached Smith’s threshold.

And from the conclusion:

We are at a Smithian moment, in which the temptation for the Fed to spend its last dime of credibility may prove irresistible. Investors are already being taxed by inflation and can rationally expect that tax rate (the inflation rate) to be raised going forward. Wages are not keeping up. Main Street is being taxed to fund Wall Street excess. Anyone who works, saves and invests is exposed to confiscation of his capital and earnings through inflation.

If the Fed maintained its independence of action and said no to the inflationary finance of Congress’s profligacy, we wouldn’t have reached this point. But the Fed has forsaken that independence amid an absence of leadership.

Perhaps, as rarely happens, Adam Smith will be proven wrong. Let us hope so, because hope appears to be all we have.

July 28, 2008

SEC and Fed want to toughen rules

This AccountantsWorld.com article outlines an effort by the SEC and the Federal Reserve to press Congress for additional regulatory and supervisory powers.

From the link:

At a Congressional hearing on how to modernize financial regulation, the S.E.C. and the Fed laid out similar, if somewhat competing, visions for a new regime capable of monitoring commercial and investment banks to ensure they remain financially sound in order to prevent another credit crisis.

 

Both the S.E.C. chairman, Christopher Cox, and the New York Federal Reserve Bank president, Timothy F. Geithner, said that the current patchwork of regulatory agencies, much of which dates back to the Depression of the 1930s, deserved part of the blame for the yearlong financial market turmoil.

But Mr. Cox said his agency should oversee investment banks, while Mr. Geithner said the Fed must have a direct supervisory role over any firms that borrow from the central bank.

”It’s very important that we have a role in consolidated supervision of these institutions because you will not have good judgments made by this central bank, this Federal Reserve, in the future unless we have the direct knowledge that comes with supervision,” Mr. Geithner told the House Financial Services Committee.

July 11, 2008

Global accounting gets high level support

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:08 pm

The merging of US and international accounting standards is coming. Global companies welcome this because this integration eases the need to keep separate books to meet two sets of standards.

The looming reality of one world-one standard recently received support from a couple of heavy hitters

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke both defended the Securities and Exchange Commission’s plans for converging American accounting standards with international bookkeeping rules.

Their comments on Thursday came in response to criticism over the rapid progression of the project that is being pushed aggressively by SEC Chairman Christopher Cox. Michael Capuano, a congressman from Massachusetts and a member of the House Financial Services Committee, questioned the Treasury and Fed chiefs on the wisdom of outsourcing, in a manner of speaking, the rules that affect how companies report their most crucial information — including earnings — at a time when the U.S. is in the midst of a regulatory overhaul. Paulson and Bernanke were testifying at hearing about how to overhaul the regulation system.

March 14, 2008

Bear Stearns reaches for bailout

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:52 am

The media may be reporting mixed signals, but the US economic crisis is going nowhere.

From the linked NYT article:

Bear Stearns, facing a grave liquidity crisis, reached out to JPMorgan on Friday for a short-term financial lifeline and now faces the prospect of the end of its 85-year run as an independent investment bank.

With the support of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, JPMorgan said in a statement that it had “agreed to provide secured funding to Bear Stearns, as necessary, for an initial period of up to 28 days.”

Update — Here’s a CFO.com article with more on this issue and about government financial regulation in general.

From the CFO.com link:

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, now dealing with his very own horror show in the melting credit markets, can probably relate.

Paulson, the former chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, has strived to regulate the financial markets with a light touch. Yet the most recent report of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which Paulson chairs, shows financial regulators are being pulled inexorably by the worsening credit crisis to use a heavier regulatory hand, or even to intervene directly in the market.

Indeed, today, just one day after the report was released, the Federal Reserve was forced to back a bailout of Bear Stearns. And earlier in the week, the Fed poured some $200 billion of liquidity into the market. The report of the President’s Working Group itself contains recommendations that translate into increased regulatory oversight of everything from credit rating agencies to banks to institutional investors to mortgage brokers. The report also recommends that regulators intervene with other standard-setting bodies, notably the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.