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.
It is that time of the year again – our semi-annual funding drive begins today. Give us a little hand in offsetting the costs of running this blog, as advertising revenue alone is insufficient. You can help us reach our modest funding goal by donating either via paypal or bitcoin. Those of you who have made a ton of money based on some of the things we have said in these pages (we actually made a few good calls lately!), please feel free to up your donations accordingly (we are sorry if you have followed one of our bad calls. This is of course your own fault). Other than that, we can only repeat that donations to this site are apt to secure many benefits. These range from sound sleep, to children including you in their songs, to the potential of obtaining privileges in the afterlife (the latter cannot be guaranteed, but it seems highly likely). As always, we are greatly honored by your readership and hope that our special mixture of entertainment and education is adding a little value to your life!
Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke
3 Responses to “False Premises: The Biggest Myths About the Fed’s Rate Hike”
Most read in the last 20 days:
- A Striking Chart
The Economy and the Stock Market As long time readers know, we are always paying close attention to the manufacturing sector, which is far more important to the US economy than is generally believed. In terms of gross output it is the largest sector of the economy, and it should of course be obvious that saving, investment and production are the only ways to create wealth. What's left of the Brooklyn Domino Sugar Refinery. Photo credit: Paul Raphaelson Contrary...
- Trump and Putin Narrowly Escape Assassination Attempt
The Gloves are Coming Off First a little bit of recent history. Readers are probably aware that some questions about the occasionally malfunctioning Deep State android... no, wait, we'll start again. Questions have recently been raised about the health of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by various “alt-right” tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists, such as this one. The monsters are normally hiding under Hillary's bed, but lately they have come out into the open...
- US Economy - Curious Pattern in ISM Readings
Head Fake Theory Confirmed? This is a brief update on our last overview of economic data. Although we briefly discussed employment as well, the overview was as usual mainly focused on manufacturing, which is the largest sector of the economy by gross output. Pepsi factory in Baltimore, 1956 Photo via pinterest.com Readers may recall that we have pointed out for some time that there was quite a large gap between the data reported in regional Fed manufacturing...
- Why the Fed Destroyed the Market Economy
What Have You Done for Me Lately? Swing voters are a fickle bunch. One election they vote Democrat. The next they vote Republican. For they have no particular ideology or political philosophy to base their judgment upon. The primacy of the wallet. They don’t give a rip about questions of small government or big government. Nor do they have any druthers about the welfare or warfare state. In effect, they really don’t care. What’s important to the...
- How is Real Wealth Created?
An Abrupt Drop Let’s turn back to our regular beat: the U.S. economy and its capital markets. We’ve been warning that the Fed would never make any substantial increase to interest rates. Not willingly, at least. Groping in the dark, Yellen-style Each time Fed chief Janet Yellen opens her mouth, out comes a hint that more rate hikes might be coming. But each time, it turns out that the economy is not as robust as she had believed... and that a rate hike isn’t...
- Janet Yellen’s Shame
Playing Politics In honest capitalism, you do what you can to get other people to voluntarily give you money. This usually involves providing goods or services they think are worth the price. You may get a little wild and crazy from time to time, but you are always called to order by your customers. In the market economy, consumers reign supreme. There is no such thing as a “lost” vote in the marketplace; every penny spent affects production. Mises noted: “Consumers...
- Get Ready for a New Crisis – in Corporate Debt
Imposter Dollar OUZILLY, France – We’re going back to basics here at the Diary. We’re getting everyone on the same page... learning together... connecting the dots... trying to figure out what is going on. The new three dollar bill issued by the Apprehensive States of America. We made a breakthrough when we identified the source of so many of today’s bizarre and grotesque trends. It’s the money – the new post-1971 dollar. This new dollar is green. You...
- The Economy, the Stock Market and the Fed
John Hussman on Recent Developments We always look forward to John Hussman's weekly missive on the markets. Some people say that he is a “permabear”, but we don't think that is a fair characterization. He is rightly wary of the stock market's historically extremely high valuation and the loose monetary policy driving the surge in asset prices. The S&P 500 Index and the NYSE advance-decline line. Most market internals weakened steadily until early February 2016, but...
- Donald’s Electoral Struggle
Wicked and Terrible After touting her pro-labor union record, the Wicked Witch of Chappaqua rhetorically asked, “why am I not 50 points ahead?” Her chief rival bluntly responded: “because you’re terrible.”* No truer words have been uttered by any of the candidates about one of their opponents since the start of this extraordinary presidential campaign! Electoral map (note that the coloration may no longer be applicable...) That Hillary Clinton is...
- Hanjin Marooning in San Pedro Bay
Global Trade Reversal Expansions and contractions in global trade have played out over long secular trends for thousands of years. The Silk Road, for example, was established by the Han Dynasty of China in 130 BC, and allowed for continuous trade between East and West for nearly 1,600 years. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was also a conduit for culture and knowledge among its network of civilizations. A map of the main ancient Silk Road - click to...
- Great Causes, a Sea of Debt and the 2017 Recession
Great Cause NORMANDY, FRANCE – We continue our work with the bomb squad. Myth disposal is dangerous work: People love their myths more than they love life itself. They may kill for money. But they die for their religions, their governments, their clans... and their ideas. Famous French hippie and author Voltaire. He wears the same sardonic grin in every painting, whether he's depicted at a young or an old age, doesn't matter. His real name was François-Marie Arouet; he...
- The Donald Versus Killary: War or Peace?
War: A Warning from the Past Although history does not exactly repeat itself, it does provide parallels and sometimes quite ominous ones. Such is the case with the current U.S. Presidential election and the one which occurred one hundred years earlier. The Donald probably has the better slogan... The dominating question which hung over the 1916 campaign was whether the country would remain neutral in regard to the horrific slaughter which was taking place on the...