Posts filed under “Federal Reserve”

Bernanke & the Markets

Let’s cut Ben Bernanke a break: the present situation wasn’t of his making; he merely inherited a bad economic set up. Slowing growth, rising inflation, high energy costs, a real estate dependent economy, and the longstanding problem of excess liquidity — none of these rest at the feet of the present Fed Chair. In reality, they are the result of what Tim Iacono charitably describes as The Mess That Greenspan Made.

Further, some of the critics are exempting Greenspan and blasting helicopter Ben. Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning (R), has called Bernanke an "amateur" and "blasted the former Princeton University professor for unnerving markets with his anti-inflation rhetoric." Bunning said Bernanke’s "been in a cocoon of academia and is not ready for prime time."

Its funny to hear these criticisms, which ignore history. First, every new Fed chair is an amateur for a while. Even the most qualified economist/politician is unprepared for what may very well be the most powerful position in the world. What can prep you for that? That’s why market historians know of the New Fed Chair Curse. No black magic involved, just a painful honeymoon period of adjustment.

Second, consider the opposite: imagine if the Fed allowed inflation to get away from them? If the cruelest tax were allowed to run rampant, the exact same critics would be all over Bernanke. That’s why the Fed tends to overtighten: Its the lesser of two evils.

Soft landings are a matter of luck, not policy. Its why they are so rare

Even Paul Volcker, the cigar chomping Fed chair who brought runaway inflation to heel in the late 1970s and 80s, noted that Bernanke faces a tougher task than he did. That’s a hell of an admission from a man I perceive as the greatest inflation fighting Fed Chair in history. He not only took away the punch bowl, but bitch-slapped the high priced escorts at the party and kicked the drunks out into the street onto their asses.

Now that’s what I call an inflation fighter.

But if you want to understand the true problem facing Bernanke, its the liquidity problem. Greenspan treated every issue as if the only possible repsonse was to increase liquidity. Thats like a dentist giving a kid candy every time they complained of a toothe ache.

Have a look at this liquidity chart for a better understanding of how weer got into the present situation:


Liquidity Driven Banking Policy 
click for larger chart


Source:  Ritholtz Research & Analytics


Makes the picture a whole lot clearer . . .


UPDATE July 19, 2006 11:42pm

The request goes up for what this looks in actual U.S. money supply growth;


Money Supply 1900-2000
clik for larger graph


Thanks to Smithers & Co. for the graphic


Note the surge from 1995 to 2005 — that’s Greenspan territory . . .


Bernanke: The wimp or the ogre?
Can the Fed chairman keep the inflation-wary bond market and rate-conscious lawmakers satisfied?
Reuters, July 16 2006: 10:11 PM EDT

Volcker Says Bernanke Faces Tougher Task Than When He Ran Fed
Matthew Benjamin
Bloomberg, July 14, 2006

Category: Federal Reserve

The Bull Case

Category: Earnings, Economy, Federal Reserve, Investing, Markets, Psychology

NFP: much ado about very little

Category: Employment, Federal Reserve, Real Estate, Wages & Income

Ignore Inverted/Flat Yield Curve at Your Own Risk

Category: Data Analysis, Economy, Federal Reserve, Fixed Income/Interest Rates, Markets

1/4 point, or . . . ?

Category: Federal Reserve

CPI Null Set (via The Economist)

Category: Data Analysis, Federal Reserve, Financial Press, Inflation

Call to ARMs

Category: Federal Reserve, Inflation, Markets, Real Estate

The Return of Abelson

Bol_logo_top_page_05"AS WE WERE SAYING BEFORE WE WERE SO rudely interrupted by a man dressed in a white smock and wielding a scalpel (thank heavens he left his box-cutter at home), the stock market looks a bit worse for the wear."


So says Barron’s Alan Abelson, usually one of Wall Street’s most visible Bears. Just his luck — or was it the Trading Gods having some fun? — that he managed to be out of service for the most bearish period in 3 years. Traders, being a superstitious lot, will soon be begging Abelson to "let us know the next time you go in for a procedure" – so they can get short.

Regardless, whatever the  man dressed in a white smock removed, it wasn’t his arch sense of humor or acid tinged tongue:

"The impact of the massive disturbance was global in every sense: Not only were its terrible tremors felt far beyond the narrow canyon of capitalism in lower Manhattan, but they commanded notice in quarters much loftier than trading floors or commodity pits. We’ve not the slightest doubt, for example, that what prompted the famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking early last week to urge earthlings to create settlements in space was, pure and simple, fear of the effect of crashing markets on the human race."

But the key to Abelson’s return is his clear eyed take on inflation, which comports squarely with our own views:

"FOR OPENERS, OUR HUNCH IS THAT MR. BERNANKE’S concerns about inflation, despite his mucking up the message with all that rubbish about inflationary expectations, have more than a modicum of merit. And our conviction on this score is only strengthened, of course, by the fact that so many pundits pooh-pooh inflation as a problem. Indeed, if anything, we fault the chairman for his evident sympathy with the argument that the fearsome upward spiral in the price of crude, so far, anyway, hasn’t been exerting all that much impact in the economy at large.

Apparently, Mr. Bernanke, like his critics, needs to get out more. Oil is a very sneaky commodity. Our old friend and revered Barron’s contributor, Abe Briloff, likes to describe certain stealth accounting practices as comparable to a bikini: what they reveal is interesting, what they conceal is vital. Oil is something like that: Its uses are readily manifest, but it plays a far bigger and more critical role in our lives than is easily perceived.

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Category: Federal Reserve, Financial Press, Inflation, Investing, Markets, Psychology

Much Ado About Nothing

Category: Economy, Federal Reserve, Inflation, Markets

How the Fed Chief Gains Credibility

Category: Federal Reserve