PARIS – The Fed did as expected. It announced it would raise its key rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 0.5% and gradually raise it up over the next three years.
Reports the Financial Times: “Historic gamble for Yellen, as Fed makes quarter-point rise.” If all goes well, we’ll be back to “normal” in 2019 – 10 years after the long emergency began!
Esmeralda, one of the many forecasters known to be superior to the Fed (a lot cheaper too).
Photo via pinterest.com
U.S. stocks rose on the news, with the Dow up 224 points – or about 1.3%. Those who predicted panic were wrong. (Surprises rarely come when they are expected.) But wait …
How does the Fed know what a normal rate will be in 2019? Won’t conditions change? Besides, there are sidewalk astrologers and mall palm readers with a better record of market forecasting than the Fed.
To borrow a phrase from George Soros, our mission at the Diary is to “find the trend whose premise is false and bet against it.” Is it true that the Fed is really going to follow through with its promise to return interest rates back to normal?
Is it true that terrorists are out to get us? Is it true that Donald Trump is a fool? Of course, we are all fools… but some more than others. The wise man is the one who knows he is a fool. For our part, we deny it. And we resent readers who remind us.
But we admit to being wrong, from time to time. (Any man who has been married for as long as we have must be accustomed to this kind of admission.) And since investors so heartily endorsed the Fed’s move, we will reexamine our position.
The premises of the rate increase are several:
…that the Fed knows best what interest rate is good for the economy…
…that a recovery is sufficiently established to permit an end to the emergency micro rates of the last seven years…
…and that otherwise everything is more or less hunky-dory.
The “Dollar Recession”
And they are all false? We dismiss the first one as poppycock. No serious economist – if there are any left – would believe that the Fed can do a better job of setting the price of credit than willing buyers and sellers.
As to the second premise – that the recovery is solid – we present evidence to the contrary practically every day. Today, we submit to the jury some additional facts:
- Last month, U.S. industrial production fell more than any time in the last three and a half years. This marks the eighth monthly decline in 10 months. This slowdown is shadowed overseas by what Deutsche Bank describes as “a huge global dollar nominal GDP recession – the worst since the 1960s.”
- According to the Fed, there are now 61 million people of working age in the U.S. who don’t have jobs. That’s out of 204 million people between 15 and 64 years old. So, if you pass five people on the street, the odds are that one and a half of them is jobless.
- The “labor participation rate” – the amount of people in the working-age population either employed or looking for work – is at its lowest level since 1977. For men, it has never been lower.
If it were true that the economy was in good health, how is it possible that men would have a harder time finding a job than ever before?
Everything is awesome, unless it isn’t. In terms of a lagging indicator the construction of which obfuscates more than it reveals, everything is fine. Most other indicators (especially the leading kind) say it just isn’t so.
Cartoon by Ben Garrison
When the Going Gets Tough
Now, we turn to the third premise – that everything else is more or less hunky-dory. Supposedly, in this wide world of everything that is not directly under the Fed’s control, or included in its inventory of conceits and fantasies, there is nothing that poses a serious obstacle on the road to normalcy.
If this were true, we are wrong. Because our guess is that the Fed is trapped and that it cannot continue down this road for long. It is only a matter of time until it runs into trouble. What kind of trouble?
You can get any kind of “facts” you want. But on the road to normalcy, the Fed is bound to encounter a normal stock market sell-off or a normal recession. Ms. Yellen has dismissed worries of a recession. But unless the Fed has triumphed over the business cycle – which we doubt – a recession will appear sooner or later.
A long term chart of “real GDP growth” – as useless a statistic as GDP is, this chart does reveal two important facts: 1. the Fed has no control over the business cycle, and 2. its influence on the economy is thoroughly negative, as even in terms of this massaged and in many ways phony aggregate (inter alia it is designed to make things look better than they actually are), growth is in a persistent downtrend – click to enlarge.
In the face of such adversity, how likely is it that the Fed will persevere? The Fed’s future actions are “data dependent,” says Yellen. But imagine if Christopher Columbus had taken a “fact-dependent” voyage across the Atlantic.
Fact No.1: He ran out of food.
Fact No.2: His men were sick and dying of scurvy, malnutrition, and other diseases.
Fact No.3: India was not where he thought it was.
Any one of these facts, presented to him forcefully by his crew, would have been enough to cause him to turn around. When the going gets tough, “fact-dependent” travelers go home.
1492: Christopher Columbus and what’s left of his malnourished and scurvy-mangled crew arrives in “India”
Painting by John Vanderlyn
Charts by: St. Louis Federal Reserve Research
Image captions by PT
The above article originally appeared as “The Three Biggest Myths About the Fed’s Rate Hike…“ at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, written for Bonner & Partners. Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.
Dear Readers! We are happy to report that we have reached our turn-of-the-year funding goal and want to extend a special thank you to all of you who have chipped in. We are very grateful for your support! As a general remark, according to usually well informed circles, exercising the donation button in between funding drives is definitely legal and highly appreciated as well.
Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke
3 Responses to “False Premises: The Biggest Myths About the Fed’s Rate Hike”
Most read in the last 20 days:
- Alan “Bubbles” Greenspan Returns to Gold
Faking It Under a gold standard, the amount of credit that an economy can support is determined by the economy’s tangible assets, since every credit instrument is ultimately a claim on some tangible asset. […] The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit. — Alan Greenspan, 1961 He was in it for the power and the glory... Alan Greenspan gets presidential bling...
- End of an Era: The Rise and Fall of the Petrodollar System
The Transition “The chaos that one day will ensue from our 35-year experiment with worldwide fiat money will require a return to money of real value. We will know that day is approaching when oil-producing countries demand gold, or its equivalent, for their oil rather than dollars or euros. The sooner the better.” Ron Paul A new oil pipeline is built in the Saudi desert... this one is apparently destined for the Ghawar oil field, one of the oldest fields in Saudi Arabia...
- Writing on the Wall
Time to Sell... Maybe BALTIMORE – Yesterday, the S&P 500 hit a new all-time high. And the Dow just hit a new record close as well. If you haven’t sold yet, dear reader, this may be one of the best times ever to do so. It's still flying... sorta. Meet Bill Bonner's tattered crash flag Image credit: fmh We welcome new readers with a simple insight: Markets are contrary, pernicious, and downright untrustworthy. Just when the mob begins to bawl most loudly...
- A Fully Automated Stock Market Blow-Off?
Anecdotal Skepticism vs. Actual Data About one month ago we read that risk parity and volatility targeting funds had record exposure to US equities. It seems unlikely that this has changed – what is likely though is that the exposure of CTAs has in the meantime increased as well, as the recent breakout in the SPX and the Dow Jones Industrial Average to new highs should be delivering the required technical signals. The bots keep buying... Illustration via...
- The Central Planning Virus Mutates
Chopper Pilot Descends on Nippon Readers are probably aware of recent events in Japan, the global laboratory for interventionist experiments. The theories of assorted fiscal and monetary cranks have been implemented in spades for more than a quarter of a century in the country, to appropriately catastrophic effect. Amid stubbornly stagnating economic output, Japan has amassed a debt pile so vast since the bursting of its 1980s asset bubble, it beggars the imagination. A...
- Destination Mars
Asset Price Levitation One of the more preposterous deeds of modern central banking involves creating digital monetary credits from nothing and then using the faux money to purchase stocks. If you’re unfamiliar with this erudite form of monetary policy this may sound rather fantastical. But, in certain economies, this is now standard operating procedure. The “Tokyo Whale” Haruhiko Kuroda explains his asset purchase madness with a few neat little slides. Photo credit:...
- America Has Become a “Parasitocracy”
Dread and Denial So, let’s return to the discussion you can’t have with your congressman, your mailman, or your barmaid. It’s the important one. It concerns what the Fed is really up to. Eight years after achieving independence, a State modeled after the British merchant state was established in the US. It took a while for the Deep State to consolidate itself within it, a process that was accelerated greatly in the run-up to and aftermath of WW I. Illustration by Ana...
- Fat People for Trump!
Alphas and Epsilons BALTIMORE – One of the delights of being an American is that it is so easy to feel superior to your fellow countrymen. All you have to do is stand up straight and smile. Or if you really need an ego boost, just go to a local supermarket. Better yet, go to a supermarket with a Trump poster in the parking lot. The protest vote attractor with the funny hair. Image credit: Liberty Maniacs Trigger warning: In the following ramble, we make fun of...
- Long Term Market Perspectives
Methuselah Tree When looking for a good theme for this post I pondered for a while and then decided to use a picture of a bristlecone pine, which are widely considered to be the oldest living trees in the world. Ye olde bristlecone Photo credit: Kosta Konstantinidis You can find them near the Nevada/California border and if you wind up traveling in the area then I strongly recommend that head over to Bishop and from there head up high up into the White...
- EU Sends Obsolete Industries Mission to China
“Tough Negotiations” The European press informs us that a delegation of EU Commission minions, including Mr. JC Juncker (who according to a euphemistically worded description by one of his critics at the Commission “seems often befuddled and tired, not really quite present”) and European Council president Donald Tusk, has made landfall in Beijing. Their mission was to berate prime minister Li Keqiang over alleged “steel dumping” by China and get him to cease and...
- Gold is not Going to $10,000
One Cannot Trade Based on the Endgame The prices of the metals were down again this week, -$15 in gold and more substantially -$0.57 in silver. Stories continued to circulate this week, hitting even the mainstream media. Apparently gold is going to be priced at $10,000. Jump on the bandwagon now, while it’s still cheap and a bargain at a mere $1,322! All aboard... or maybe not? It all depends on what one wants to achieve – there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the...
- The Real Reason the “Rich Get Richer”
Time the Taskmaster DUBLIN – “Today’s money,” says economist George Gilder, “tries to cheat time. And you can’t do that.” It may not cheat time, but it cheats far easier marks – consumers, investors, and entrepreneurs. Tempus fugit – every action humans undertake has to take time into account. In the economy, interest rates serve as the signal and regulator of the inter-temporal structure of capital. In an unhampered free market economy, they tell...