Posts filed under “Think Tank”

Should the Fed be Responsibly Irresponsible?

This week I offer two short essays for your reading pleasure in Outside the Box. The first is from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writing in the London Telegraph. He gives some more specifics about the situation in Europe I wrote about this weekend.

He ends with the following sober quote: “My awful fear is that we will do exactly the opposite, incubating yet another crisis this autumn, to which we will respond with yet further spending. This is the road to ruin.” This is a must read.

And the second piece? Last week in Outside the Box we looked at an “Austrian” (economic) view of the inflation/deflation debate from my friends at Hoisington. This week we look at the 180 degree opposite with Keynesian aficionado Paul McCulley, who argues that the Fed should be Responsibly Irresponsible and target higher inflation. This essay has brought some rather heated arguments in print and from some of the people who will be with Paul and me at the annual Maine fishing trip. And you can bet I will put them all together with a little wine to see how the argument ensues. I will report back.

And Paul ends with a great and what is a quite controversial line, “Yes, as Bernanke intoned, there are no free lunches. But no lunch doesn’t work for me. Or the American people. While it is true, as Keynes intoned, that we are all dead in the long run, I see no reason to die young from orthodoxy-imposed anorexia.”

And finally, this one last note on European banks: “European banks including Societe Generale SA and BNP Paribas SA hold almost $200 billion in guarantees sold by New York-based AIG allowing the lenders to reduce the capital required for loss reserves.” (Bloomberg). Want to think about the US taxpayer paying to bail out Europeans banks? Think that might be a tad controversial? This could be explosive.

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box

Fiscal ruin of the Western world beckons
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

For a glimpse of what awaits Britain, Europe, and America as budget deficits spiral to war-time levels, look at what is happening to the Irish welfare state.

Events have already forced Premier Brian Cowen to carry out the harshest assault yet seen on the public services of a modern Western state. He has passed two emergency budgets to stop the deficit soaring to 15pc of GDP. They have not been enough. The expert An Bord Snip report said last week that Dublin must cut deeper, or risk a disastrous debt compound trap.

A further 17,000 state jobs must go (equal to 1.25m in the US), though unemployment is already 12pc and heading for 16pc next year.

Education must be cut 8pc. Scores of rural schools must close, and 6,900 teachers must go….Nobody is spared. Social welfare payments must be cut 5pc, child benefit by 20pc. The Garda (police), already smarting from a 7pc pay cut, may have to buy their own uniforms. Hospital visits could cost £107 a day, etc, etc….

No doubt Ireland has been the victim of a savagely tight monetary policy – given its specific needs. But the deeper truth is that Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, the US, and Japan are in varying states of fiscal ruin, and those tipping into demographic decline (unlike young Ireland) have an underlying cancer that is even more deadly. The West cannot support its gold-plated state structures from an aging workforce and depleted tax base.

Read More

Category: Federal Reserve, Think Tank

Bulls Win Today; Watson’s Example is Timeless

Good Evening: U.S. stocks stretched their recent winning streak to six straight today, as some good economic news and some potential help for CIT combined to lift share prices. With more investors becoming convinced the worst is over for our economy, the major averages all tacked on gains of 1% or more. The S&P 500…Read More

Category: Markets, Think Tank

On the Economic Outlook and the Commitment to Price Stability

On the Economic Outlook and the Commitment to Price Stability

Dennis P. Lockhart
President and Chief Executive Officer
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Rotary Club of Nashville
Nashville, Tennessee
July 20, 2009

Photo of Dennis LockhartFor my remarks this afternoon, I’ll talk about how I see the economy at this juncture, the near- and medium-term outlook, and the growing concern about inflation. Let me add at this point my usual disclaimer that my remarks are my thoughts alone and may not necessarily reflect the views of my colleagues on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

It’s especially important that I mention this caveat the day before Chairman Ben Bernanke makes his semiannual monetary policy report to Congress. Tomorrow the chairman will speak for the Federal Reserve System. Today, I am speaking just for myself, informed by advice from my colleagues at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Current economy
Current economic conditions are mixed at best, but the economy appears to be in stabilization mode. Stabilization necessarily precedes recovery. A recovery has not yet taken hold but should begin before too long.

I’ll start with a look at manufacturing, which has been hard hit in this recession. Just last week we learned that manufacturing production was down 0.6 percent in June, month over month. In the past year, manufacturers have cut production by more than 15 percent, and the manufacturing capacity utilization rate dropped to about 65 percent, a record low.

Here in middle Tennessee, manufacturing accounts for about 12 percent of employment. The number of manufacturing jobs here declined by about 12 percent on a year-over-year basis in May, the most recent data available. I know that many of you here today have directly felt the troubles in this important sector.

Recent indicators of business investment are also down but are a bit less discouraging. Durable goods orders increased this spring and in May reached the highest levels in four months. On the other hand, the most recent data showed the liquidation of business inventories continuing, but the pace has slowed.

Consumer spending absorbs about two-thirds of economic output, and the recent picture in this area is mostly negative. After taking price changes into account, it appears that retail spending fell again in June. Restaurants, department stores, and building materials retailers all posted month-to-month declines. Overall, retail results are in line with the ongoing weakness in consumer spending we have been seeing.

Read More

Category: Federal Reserve, Think Tank

Fed member Lockhart calling a mea culpa on Fed policy

I believe for the very first time, a Fed member is admitting that it was an artificially low fed funds rate that ‘helped create the housing bubble’ (I’m quoting Bloomberg). Voting member Lockhart just made the comment in a Q&A after a speech on the US economy. He took office as head of the Atlanta…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Commercial and Industrial Loans

With CIT garnering headlines over the past week in terms of its own fate but that of many small businesses reliant on it, on Friday the Fed released its weekly balance sheet data for commercial banks for the week ended July 8th and we can see what the business lending trends are. Commercial and Industrial…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Getting Full Value for Bailout Warrants

From a friend on the Hill:

Good news today. Some of you have noted that it is somewhat outrageous for the Treasury to privately price and sell warrants back to the banks that got TARP money instead of doing an open auction that will fetch the best price for the taxpayer. The Congressional Oversight Panel claims that the currently used secret process returns only 66 cents on the dollar to the taxpayer.

Mary Jo Kilroy, a freshman Democrat from Ohio, introduced a bill (HR 3232) to compel an open auction of these warrants with six cosponsors: Brad Sherman, John Boccieri, Betty Sutton, Jackie Speier, Marcia Fudge and Alan Grayson.

All of these members except Brad Sherman are in their first or second term in Congress, and all are Democrats. Sherman was the leader of the little noted but important ‘skeptics caucus’ that attempted to stop the $700B bailout in September.

There is also a hearing on the TARP warrant repayments on Wednesday. Many of you don’t have faith in Congress, but there are lots of crosscurrents and sometimes people here do show leadership.

Information on the bill is below.

Source:
PROFIT Act to Make Taxpayers, Transparency Priority in Bank Bailout Payback
July 16, 2009 4:21 PM

http://kilroy.house.gov/2009/07/profit-act-to-make-taxpayers-transparency-priority-in-bank-bailout-payback.shtml

Read More

Category: Bailouts, Politics, Think Tank

King Report: Looking more Closely at Earnings

> The Washington Post: The huge profits reported this week by some of the nation’s largest banks showed that the government is succeeding in its rescue of the financial industry, but the details of those earnings reports made it clear that the broader economy is not seeing the benefits… Washington once celebrated such profits as…Read More

Category: Earnings, Think Tank

Superman doesn’t have to be a public sector bureaucrat

While it’s not official yet, a private sector rescue of CIT is welcome news to many small businesses, especially many retailers and their vendors weeks before the back to school season begins. Also, many take cues from the trends in BTS in planning their year end holiday season and having CIT’s factoring business alive to…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Europe on the Brink

Europe on the Brink
And Then There Was Leverage
Too Big To Save
Those Wild and Crazy Swiss
A Positive Third Quarter?
New York and Maine

We have avoided Armageddon, at  least for now. The cost to the US taxpayer has been a few trillion. Some in the media are loudly announcing the end of the recession. But we are not out of the
woods yet. There are a few more bumps in the road. Actually, some of them are quite steep hills. As big as the subprime problem? Maybe.

When asked a few weeks ago what was my biggest short-term concern, I quickly replied, “European banks have the  potential to create significant risk for the entire worldwide system.” This week we will glance “over the pond” to see what gives me cause for concern. Then we briefly look at a few of the bumps I mentioned, which are likely to stretch out any recovery, and maybe even dip us back into recession.

But first, a quick announcement. We are making dramatic changes to my free Accredited Investor E-Letter and service, and will have a new web site and much improved content in a month or
so. But in the meantime, I have just finished a new letter; and if you sign up at the current site, you will of course get all the new services and benefits when we make the changes, as well as this new letter. Basically, this service is for accredited investors (net worth of $1.5 million or more) who are interested in learning more about and investing in alternative funds like hedge funds, commodity funds, and so on. You will get a call from one of my worldwide partners (Altegris Investments in the US, Absolute Return Partners in Europe, Nicola Asset Management in Canada, Plexus Asset Management in Africa, and Fynn Capital in Latin America) and gain access to a lot of information and an easy way to preview what I think is a great line-up of quality funds and managers. You can go to www.accreditedinvestor.ws and sign up today. Don’t procrastinate!

And for those of you in the US who are on your way to becoming accredited investors (but not there yet), my friends at CMG have a platform of alternative managers that can be tailored to your specific needs. You really owe it to yourself to see the managers on their platform. The link to their form is
http://www.cmgfunds.net/public/mauldin_questionnaire.asp.
And now, let’s jump into the letter.

Europe on the Brink

Globalization is a two-edged sword. On balance, it has brought prosperity to those who have
embraced it, with rising lifestyles, better health, longer lives, and more. The
more we need each other, the less likely it is that we’ll shoot each other.
Shooting your customers is not a good business strategy. And while the growth
has not been even or smooth, only a Luddite would want to return to the early
1800s or 1900s, or even 1975.

The other edge of that sword? We are connected in so very many ways, far more than
most of the world suspected. Who thought that insane lending policies at US
mortgage banks would bring the world financial system to its knees, increasing
unemployment and leading to a global recession? World trade is down 20% or
more. US railroad shipments are down more than 20% year-over-year. Chinese (and
Asian) factories have seen their orders drop, as US consumers have gone on
strike. The US trade deficit was just $25 billion last month; and while our
exports are still dropping, our imports are dropping more. Oil is becoming a
bigger and bigger share of imports, and that does not come from Asian
exporters.

The US is far and away the country with the largest gross domestic product (GDP).
California would be the 7th largest country, but few think of California
in such terms. For this letter, at least, I would like to think of Europe as a
whole rather than as 27 countries. From that perspective, Europe is as
economically important to the world as the US. What happens in Europe makes a
difference in the US.

Last week we looked at the precarious position of Japan, the second largest economy
(or third if you think of Europe as a whole). It was a sobering letter. When
you realize the extent to which Japan has funded Asian expansion, what is
happening there cannot be good for the world.

But Europe’s banks have been much more aggressive in funding emerging-market
expansion than US or Japanese banks. Western European banks have lent $4.5
trillion to various emerging-market countries, businesses, and consumers. Many
Eastern European businesses borrowed in low-interest-rate euros. New homeowners
in Hungary and the rest of Eastern Europe borrowed in Swiss francs and euros,
and as their currencies have collapsed they now find they owe more on their
homes than they’re worth.

And here’s the problem. Europe’s banking system is in far worse shape than the US system. The losses may be bigger, and their capital to meet those losses is certainly less. Let’s look
at some charts. Remove sharp objects or pour another adult beverage.

As I noted last week, one of the
real benefits of writing this letter is that I get to see a lot of really
interesting information from readers and meet with very savvy investment
professionals. I recently had the privilege of sitting with a team of analysts
from Hayman Capital here in Dallas. Hayman runs a global macro hedge fund, so
they spend a lot of time thinking about how all the different aspects of the
global markets fit together. This week we again look at some of their analysis.
There was a lot of work (as in months) done here; and Kyle Bass, the founder of
the firm, graciously allowed me to share some of it with you (and kudos to Wes
Swank, who pulled this together). The graphs are theirs, and my discussion about
them is certainly informed by our meeting; but I am using the material as a
launching point, so they are not responsible for my conclusions and
interpretations.

Read More

Category: Think Tank

Responsible Versus Irresponsible Central Banking

Good Afternoon: After surging for four straight sessions this week, U.S. stocks spent most of today consolidating those gains. The quiet, sideways action we had today is fairly typical of summer Fridays, but, as always, there are longer term issues to consider. What, for example, will happen to the myriad middle market businesses that depend…Read More

Category: Markets, Think Tank