Monday, June 10, 2019

Powell's Fed Has NO Business Propping Up Trump Or The Markets - With Interest Rate Cuts

Image result for brane space, Trump tariff images
"Cripes, I don't know how to control this stupid asshole! I guess I'll just give in."

Barely 4 days ago, I was unable to believe my eyes as I read:

Web resultThis was not a headline designed to inspire confidence among ordinary citizens - especially dedicated savers  not prepared to gamble their money in Maul Street's casinos.  Thus, we were not encouraged on reading (ibid.)Barel"A month ago, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell played down speculation of a rate cut this summer. Now officials at the central bank face a darker economic outlook and heightened trade tensions, making a rate cut possible—if not at their meeting on June 18-19, then in July or later."

"A month ago, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell played down speculation of a rate cut this summer. Now officials at the central bank face a darker economic outlook and heightened trade tensions, making a rate cut possible—if not at their meeting on June 18-19, then in July or later."

This was appalling news especially for dedicated savers. Worse, it portends an ill financial wind for all Americans if it helps to accelerate the economy toward recession rather than improve it. That happens as the Fed seeks to stimulate an economy already over leveraged (deeply in debt) and with employment near full capacity.   But the word is that Powell and others on the Fed Board are "puzzled as to why inflation hasn't risen more".  (Rising inflation would signal a need to raise interest rates.)  Well, there are two reasons: 1)Wages remain stagnant so the usual inflation driver of higher wages in flush times isn't there, and 2) The Fed continues to use an inflation index that's out of date, not factoring in food price increases or medical inflation, especially for meds.

 Barely two weeks earlier, one read ('Investors Expect Rates Cuts By Year's End Despite Data', WSJ, May 16, p. B 10):

"Federal funds futures suggest investors are more convinced than ever that the Federal Reserve will lower interest rates multiple times by the end of the year. Economic data suggest that is too drastic a bet."


"Fed future data show the market pricing in a 26 percent chance of the Fed lowering rates twice by the end of 2019 and a 7.5 percent chance of the Fed doing it three times. That is up from 6.7%  and 0.3 % a month ago.

The numbers seems to stand at odds with economic data which overall have shown a strong labor market, inflation expectations that are tame, and modest profit growth well into the economic expansion.  After all, the last time the Fed cut rates was in 2008 - when policy makers were in the midst of grappling with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and financial markets were tumbling..

And more recently (June 10) our memories were refreshed (WSJ, 'Business and Finance', p. B8):  

"Then there was the Fed rate cut in September, 2007, which gave the DOW Jones Industrial Average its biggest one day percentage gain since 2003.  Fast forward one year and the U.S. was in the teeth of the financial crisis."

All of which shows me the Fed may be tempted to hit the 'chicken switch' before it's necessary and trigger what it's trying to avoid. Indeed, digging an unnecessary rate hole that may well be needed  (i.e. to really lower rates) if and when a recession does hit - as something like 70 percent of economists are forecasting now - by next year. 

Indeed, signs we're hurtling toward recession were amplified in the more recent article  ('Sluggish Jobs Data Push Treasury Yields Toward 2 Percent', WSJ,  June 8, p. A2) which ominously reported:

"Worries span the globe. The yield on 10 year German government debt Friday declined to record lows below negative  0.2 %.  Japanese government bonds of the same maturity traded below negative 0.1 %.  About $11 trillion of bonds around the world, concentrated in Europe and Japan, carry negative yields now accounting for about 20 percent of all debt world -wide according of Torsten Slok - chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities."

This debt bogeyman is for real and people would do well not to minimize it.  Indeed, as far back as two years ago The Financial Times reported on the IMF's growing concern about exploding global debt (April 17, ('IMF Sounds Alarm On Excessive Global Borrowing') :

"The world's $164 trillion debt pile is bigger than at the height of the financial crisis a decade ago, the IMF has warned, sounding the alarm on excessive global borrowing.  The fund said the private and public sectors urgently need to cut debt levels to improve the resilience of the global economy, and provide greater firefighting ability it things go wrong.

Fiscal stimulus to support demand  is no longer the priority the IMF said Wednesday in a report published at its spring meetings in Washington. "

But instead of heeding that warning, the Fed appears hell bent on ignoring it to placate and feed investors' addictions to the already senescent BULL market while appeasing Trump.  This is the swine who's berated the Fed incessantly about lowering rates,  going so far as  to try to tilt the Federal Reserve Board with two unqualified lackeys: Herman Cain and Stephen Moore.  Fortunately, after much media heat centered on their woeful and clown -like backgrounds both backed out. But Dotard never let up on his Fed attacks, and in previous posts I worried about Fed Chairman Jerome Powell bending to the fake Fuhrer's will.  

We also are well aware here - as Trump likely is - the only way we may see the end of this orange fungal infection is if the economy crashes. It's now on the verge of doing that (via a potential recession) but any Fed intervention will try to interfere to halt that.  Will the Fed deliberately be trying to help Trump stay in office? Not likely, because there's no way in hell Powell is eager to take 4 more years of Trump's temper tantrums than the rest of us. No, he'd likely want to try to avert a recession - with the best of intentions - except that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

However,  the very act of the Fed interjecting with  lower rates may well preordain two hellish consequences: 1) a Trump re-election,  and 2) Ultimately a much worse recession especially if a re-elected Trump  returns to his tariff terrorism - which has already wrought untold havoc. (See e.g. today's lead WSJ Editorial, 'Paying for  Mexico's Wall', noting: "Trump's use of tariffs as a bludgeon on migrants has economic costs. The threat of 25 % tariffs on Mexican exports is gone for now, but businesses can't be sure it won't come back."  )

Never mind the last minute phony end to the Mexican tariffs.  Which we now know Mexico had agreed to months ago, so Dotard manufactured this latest tariff crisis on his own. As usual,  employing chaos and threats to advance his feral agenda, while keeping businesses and American consumers off balance.  Former Obama CIA official Ned Price has this scum pegged perfectly, noting in a recent (June 9)  NY Times piece:

 "He manufactures a crisis, galvanizes his base around the challenge, leaves the definition of success undefined, pretends to play hardball and, lo and behold, finds a solution that entails little more than window-dressing, if that. For Trump, it’s a win-win. But the loser tends to be the American people, oftentimes Trump’s base first and foremost,” 

Why doesn't Trump's base see they are his tackling dummies, used for sport whenever he feels the urge?  Well, because they believe they are "in on the secret" and hence accept whatever drubbing he delivers so long as they might get to see the 'snowflakes'  cry.   Call it schadenfreude but with a nasty blowback.

As for the stock market, Powell wouldn't be doing it or investors any favors by jazzing it up with a rate cut. While it will temporarily boost share prices, it will he at the expense of a mammoth asset bubble. Also, an asset bubble leveraged into being by massive debt, creating an even more unstable financial system.

To fix ideas, let's note here that "support demand" (see FT  quote) refers to support of  "aggregate demand", i.e. getting citizens to spend more - which was the basis for the Trump-GOP tax cuts. This was an incredibly bad play given how much the tax cuts have already added to the debt, and the deficits going forward.

Economist and former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Reich warned on 'All In' Friday:

"With all the ancillary damage from these tariffs, and threatened tariffs (against Mexico) you could find the economy in recession before the election."

Chris Hayes then asked if the threats are large enough to knock us from an expansion into a recession, i.e. what's the case if it could.  To which Reich responded:

"Well, it's the interaction between the tariffs and the slowdown that's almost inevitable given how long this recovery has gone.  I mean recoveries don't go forever, they eventually slow down. Also American companies and American individuals are deep in debt, which is another thing that's not talked about very much.

But that debt is also a problem. Then, you have that tax cut for big corporations and for the very wealthy that did not trickle down. it just added two trillion dollars over the next ten years to our debt.

Now put all of that together and you get an economy that is very, very vulnerable."

Reinforcing this take, as The Denver Post noted (June 9. p. A):

"Recessions typically result when the Federal Reserve tightens monetary policy to cool an overheating economy. ..The past two recessions came on the heels of financial excesses, a massive stock market bubble in the early 2000s and an unprecedented housing bubble that triggered the financial crisis in 2008."

Yet now Jerome Powell's Fed seems intent on producing an even bigger bubble, by juicing stocks using interest rate cuts.  Has he been intimidated by Trump into choosing this unwise route? We don't know but the signs are not good. Following the track of the last eight months - and Trump's numerous eruptions - it really does look like Powell has caved. Both to greedy Maul Street investors pressing for more cheap money crack,  and to Dotard.

The questions then become: a) Is it better to cut rates now and in so doing create an asset and debt bubble with even worse effects later, or b)  allow financial destiny to unfold as it will, which may mean a recession - but it will effectively help get rid of the disease called Trump.  I vote for the latter out of plain common sense.

I mean, as NY Times columnist Michelle Goldberg put it on the same 'All In' show, how much more can we take?  Millions of citizens are already tuning out, and despairing that nothing can remove the national disease emanating from the White House.  This is especially after Trump's despicable and dishonorable performance for the D-Day commemoration on Thursday (insulting a real warrior, former Marine Robert Mueller, as well as disparaging Nancy Pelosi - in the shadow of the grave markers at Normandy. This from a coward who used 'bone spurs' to escape from the draft at least 5 times.)

And then we learned in the aftermath that this preening orange, 2-legged maggot wants to insinuate himself into the Independence Day celebrations!  Where does it end? Has Dotard not yet learned Presidents are to be seen and only occasionally heard - generally in their State of the Union spiels?  Four more years of this fuck-turd! Give me a recession anytime!  We need a total disinfection and fumigation of the country. 

So no,  Fed chairman Powell, no rate cuts! Stay your hand and allow the course of history to do what it will. If it means Trump's lone re-election benefit has evaporated, so be it. If it means investors are crying in their beer, we can live with that.  

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