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Fear of a Dollar Collapse, part II

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On September 21, 2007 @ 8:58 am In Commodities,Credit,Currency,Energy,Federal Reserve,Inflation | Comments Disabled

Yesterday, we discussed the potential impact of the ongoing weakening of the US dollar [1].

Today, we look at a few printing press Money Supply issues. Our focus: The spread between the Fed liquidity action (a/k/a Repos) and the M2 money supply measures.

This is simply a measure of how much cash the Fed is injecting into the system.

The following Bloomberg chart shows the spread between the two of these monetary measures. It is quite instructive:

Mzm_m2_spread [2]


Speaking of surges: As you can clearly see above (bottom left chart), the amount of MZM (repos) versus M2 during 2007 is enormous.

This means that the Fed is "inflating" at a rate faster today than it did right after 9/11, or during the deflationary scare of 2003.

As we asked Wednesday night [3], "What did the Fed Chair and the FOMC see that spooked them into a half point (over) reaction?"  I am not sure what is was (and we’ve discussed many of the potential issues over the past 2 years), but the Fed is obviously scared witless. 

The manifestations of this free  printing press are many: Any commodity priced in plentiful dollars will cost more. Crude is now $82 [4]; and Inflation Fears Send Gold to 27-Year High [5].

Why? One way to think about it is supply and demand. Print ALOT more dollars and each one is worth a little less. 

Or, consider it this way: Extracting Oil or Gold from the earth ain’t easy: We have to explore for Oil, determine where it is, how deep, what quality, etc. Then we have to use lots of heavy machinery to extract it, ship it to where it gets processed, refined, used in chemical manufacturing. Some of it gets refined into gasoline, and it is then transported to a network of gasoline stations, and it gets pumped into your car — all for less per gallon than diet Coke or peach Snapple!

For gold, the process is not all that dissimilar.

Just crank up the printing press: Its cheap and easy. But why should us gold and oil producers exchange our hard won commodities (its hard work) for pieces of paper you people are simply cranking out for free? Either give us something of real value — or instead, we will insist on more of your crappy ittle pieces of green paper.

Thus, the inflationary repercussions of a "free money" policy. In fact, every commodity that is priced in dollars can potentially see much higher prices:  Gold, Oil, Wheat, Soybeans, Copper, Timber, Corn, etc.

Its easy to understand why inflation has been called The Cruelest Tax.


BTW, for those of you without a pricey Bloomberg terminal on their desks, a good source for (free) data of this kind is the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ publication, Monetary Trends [6]. There are always a solid collection of charts showing money supply, economic conditions, etc. Not to get too wonky on you, but this is simply pornography for econ geeks.

There are a few charts after the jump [7] worth reviewing. For the less visual of you, they show that Money Supply continues to grow at a rapid pace, that bank borrowings are increasing.


Monetary Trends [6]
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’
October 2007

Where Crude Goes Now May Depend on Dollar [4]
Futures Close Near $82
WSJ, September 20, 2007; Page C1

Inflation Fears Send Gold to 27-Year High [5]
Weakening Dollar Also an Influence; Metal Hits $732.40
WSJ, September 21, 2007; Page C6


Money Supply, MZM, M1

Mzm_m1 [8]


M2 [9]

Reserves Markets, Short term Credit Flows

Borrowings [10]

I honestly cannot say what the repercussions of this chart are. But man, is that a spike or what?

Article printed from The Big Picture: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog

URL to article: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2007/09/fear-of-a-dollar-collapse-part-ii/

URLs in this post:

[1] ongoing weakening of the US dollar: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2007/09/fears-of-dollar.html

[2] Image: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2007/09/21/mzm_m2_spread.png

[3] Wednesday night: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2007/09/open-thread-mar.html

[4] Crude is now $82: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119019169756632291.html

[5] Inflation Fears Send Gold to 27-Year High: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119028926640733763.html

[6] Monetary Trends: http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/mt/20071001/mtpub.pdf

[7] after the jump: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2007/09/fear-of-a-dolla.html#more

[8] Image: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2007/09/21/mzm_m1.png

[9] Image: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2007/09/21/m2.png

[10] Image: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2007/09/21/borrowings.png

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