Posts filed under “Think Tank”

CIT is Not the FDIC’s Problem

The team of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and OCC chief John Dugan are trying to paint Sheila Bair and the FDIC as the villains in the CIT situation. CK this missive I just got from one of the members of the working press:

“The lobbyists are ready to string Bair up and claim this could be the end of every small business in America. The lefty academic types say it’s a terrible precedent, too small to care etc. I’m reading your newsletter on the matter right now.” Read our comment by clicking the link below:

What Do AIG and CIT Have in Common? Asset Deflation

http://us1.institutionalriskanalytics.com/pub/IRAstory.asp?tag=370

The Fed and Treasury (and the lobbyists for the small business mafia) are trying to get a bailout a la the banks in terms of cheaper funding costs for CIT, but FDIC is right to say no. CIT’s bank, which we rate “F” by the way, has a whole $3 billion in assets. But the real issue is that the asset values of CIT and most of the financials are falling — and the markets know it. No amount of subsidy will fix this situation.

The trouble with CIT is the same problem affecting many financials, namely that the value of assets is now below the face value of the liabilities. As Nassim Taleb any many others have suggested, the only way to fix this is debt-for-equity conversion and asset write-downs. The policy of “extend and pretend” that is being used by the Obama Administration is going to soon run out of time. CIT illustrates the basic issue and one that we’ll be hearing a lot about in coming months. — Chris

Category: Credit, Markets, Think Tank

Pick your poison

On the same day Treasury Secretary Geithner said “It is the policy of the US and it will remain the policy of the US to remain committed to a strong dollar” and that it will “remain the principal reserve currency,” the $ index is back below 80 and a close here would be the lowest…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

King Report: Who Pays Taxes?

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Last night Bill O’Reilly, in a segment about ‘connected firms’ profiting from cap & trade, stated
Goldman made $2B in 2008 but PAID NO FEDERAL INCOME TAXES!

Long-time readers know that we regularly inveigh against US policy that allows corporations to run two sets of books – one for investors and one for taxes. So when the usual suspects appear to whine that US corporations need tax relief, remember that many US corporations pay little or no income taxes while they report great earnings…How much federal income tax will Goldman pay this year? Where’s Congress?

A few weeks ago we warned that just like the previous two years, BLS seasonal adjustments prevented early spring commodity inflation (rallies) from appearing in PPI in CPI; but in June the seasonal adjustment process would inject the inflation that occurred early. This occurred yesterday with PPI.

Though PPI at 1.8% was double expectations, in reality inflation was not that strong in June. The BLS understated energy and food inflation in the spring and will overstate inflation in June & July.

Press releases noted that energy inflation (+6.6%, gasoline +18.5%) was the reason for the jump in PPI.

Once again we have better than expected retail sales (+0.65% m/m) due to inflation. ‘Core retail sales were 0.26%… Ex-food services, retail sales declined 10.3% y/y…Why won’t the government report ‘core retail sales’ (ex-food & energy) like it does for PPI and CPI?

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Category: Markets, Think Tank

industrial Production

June Industrial Production fell .4% and is the 17th month of decline in the last 18. It was .2% better than expected but May was revised down .1% so overall it was about in line. Capacity Utilization fell to 68% from 68.2% in May but was a touch more than the consensus of 67.9%. It’s…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Economic data

The July NY Fed survey was -.6, above expectations of -5 and up from -9.4 in June. New Orders jumped to +5.9 from -8.2, the first positive reading since Sept ’08 but Backlogs fell 2 points to -12.50. Employment was up a modest one point at -20.8 but it’s the least negative reading since it…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

A nice shift in focus to business from political science

The good thing about earnings season is that it allows us to focus our attention again to company fundamentals and less so on what the government will do to ‘fix things.’ Regardless of whether it was just inventory restocking or signs of a real recovery, Intel’s results being well received has a better feeling to…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Taleb Offers Positive Black Swan on Otherwise Dull Day

Good Evening: Yesterday’s stock market rally continued today when neither the earnings reports nor the economic releases contained any bombshells. CSX, JNJ, and GS all reported positive earnings, though only Goldman really surprised to the upside. Of course, since GS had its rally yesterday after the Whitney upgrade, the company’s shares barely managed to hold…Read More

Category: Markets, Think Tank

What Is Goldman Sachs?

> Jim has run Bianco Research out of Chicago since November 1990. He has been producing fixed income commentaries with a circulation of hundreds of portfolio managers and traders. Jim’s commentaries have a special emphasis on: money flow characteristics of primary dealers, mutual funds, hedge funds, futures traders, banks, and institutional investors. Prior to founding…Read More

Category: Earnings, Think Tank

Business Inventories

May Business Inventories fell 1%, .2% more than expected and April was revised down by .2%. It’s the 9th straight month of declines. With sales down .1%, the inventory to sales ratio fell to 1.42 from 1.43 and its at the lowest level since Oct ’08 when it was at 1.36. The record low was…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Debt and Deflation

There is a reason I call this column Outside the Box. I try to get material that forces us to think outside our normal comfort zones and challenges our common assumptions. I have made the comment more than once that is it unusual for two major bubbles to burst and for the conversation to be all about rising inflation and not a serious problem with deflation.

As Niels Jensen pointed out last week, the most important question that an investor can ask is whether we are in for deflation or inflation. And this week we read a well reasoned piece on deflation. This is one of the more important essays I have sent out. You need to set aside some time to absorb this one.

Van Hoisington and Dr. Lacy Hunt give us a few thoughts on why they think it is deflation that will ultimately be the problem and not inflation we are dealing with today. This week’s letter requires you to think, but it will be worth the effort.

And let me quote a few sentences in the middle of this letter about taxes which you need to think about.

“Thus Barro and Perotti are saying that each $1 increase in government spending reduces private spending by about $1, with no net benefit to GDP. All that is left is a higher level of government debt creating slower economic growth.”

“The most extensive research on tax multipliers is found in a paper written at the University of California Berkeley entitled The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes: Estimates Based on a new Measure of Fiscal Shocks, by Christina D. and David H. Romer (March 2007). (Christina Romer now chairs the president’s Council of Economic Advisors). This study found that the tax multiplier is 3, meaning that each dollar rise in taxes will reduce private spending by $3.”

Now, if you put all of the various inputs together, Hoisington and Hunt show that theory suggests we will soon be dealing with deflation. It’s counter-intuitive to what we hear today, which is why the Bank for International Settlements used the stagflation word in a recent report. The transition that is coming will not be comfortable….

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box


Quarterly Review and Outlook
Second Quarter 2009

DEBT ACTS AS A BRAKE ON THE MONETARY ENGINE

One of the more common beliefs about the operation of the U.S. economy is that a massive increase in the Fed’s balance sheet will automatically lead to a quick and substantial rise in inflation. An inflationary surge of this type must work either through the banking system or through non-bank institutions that act like banks which are often called “shadow banks”. The process toward inflation in both cases is a necessary increasing cycle of borrowing and lending. As of today, that private market mechanism has been acting as a brake on the normal functioning of the monetary engine.

For example, total commercial bank loans have declined over the past 1, 3, 6, and 9 month intervals. Also, recent readings on bank credit plus commercial paper have registered record rates of decline (Chart 1). The FDIC has closed a record 52 banks thus far this year, and numerous other banks are on life support. The “shadow banks” are in even worse shape. Over 300 mortgage entities have failed, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in federal receivership. Foreclosures and delinquencies on mortgages are continuing to rise, indicating that the banks and their non-bank competitors face additional pressures to re- trench, not expand. Thus far in this unusual business cycle, excessive debt and falling asset prices have conspired to render the best efforts of the Fed impotent. The 100% plus expansion in the Fed’s balance sheet (monetary base) has done nothing to rekindle borrowing and lending or revive even the smallest spark of inflation. What is clear is that as long as private market factors in the monetary/credit 1creation process are shrinking, as they are now, the risk for the economy is deflation, not inflation.

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THE COMPLEX MONETARY CHAIN

The link between Fed actions and the economy is far more indirect and complex than the simple conclusion that Federal asset growth equals inflation. The price level and, in fact, real GDP are determined by the intersection of the aggregate demand (AD) and aggregate supply (AS) curves. Or, in economic parlance, for an increase in the Fed’s balance sheet to boost the price level, the following conditions must be met:

  1. The money multiplier must be flat or rising;
  2. The velocity of money must be flat or rising; and
  3. The AS or supply curve must be upward sloping.

The economy and price changes are moving downward because none of these conditions are currently being met; nor, in our judgment, are they likely to be met in the foreseeable future.

Aggregate demand (AD) is planned expenditures for GDP. As defined by the equation of exchange, GDP equals M2 multiplied by the velocity of money (V). M2 equals the monetary base (MB) multiplied by the money multiplier (m). Professors Brunner and Meltzer proved that m is determined by the currency, time, and Treasury deposit ratios, as well as the excess reserve ratio. The money multiplier moves inversely with the currency, Treasury deposit ratios, and excess reserve ratios and positively with the time deposit ratio. For example, if those ratios rise on balance, then m will decline. By algebraic substitution AD(GDP) = MB*V*m. In our present case, the massive increase in the Fed’s balance sheet has created a sharp surge in excess reserves, and thus m has fallen.

Obviously the preceding paragraph is as clear as mud. It is included to provide mathematical proof of the complex connection between monetary actions and real world results. The practical and straightforward fact is that GDP has declined in the face of a surge in M2 growth. The labor market equivalent of GDP (aggregate hours worked) has declined at a record rate over the last 18 months, the entire span of the recession (Chart 2). That is, the monetary surge was totally offset by other factors; thus, the recession deepened and inflation was nonexistent.

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The conventional wisdom is that the massive increase in excess reserves might eventually be used to make loans and reverse the economic contraction now underway, or that the velocity of money might increase. First, there is a very good explanation for the surge in excess reserves. The Fed now pays interest on its deposits, so banks have been incentivized to shift transaction deposits from riskier alternatives to the safety and liquidity offered by the Fed. Historically transaction deposits at the banks have fluctuated around 3% to 7% of a bank’s balance sheet. In the second quarter, excess reserves averaged $800 billion which is 4.4% of the $18 trillion of bank debt (including off balance sheet). If this is the amount needed for transaction purposes, then this “high powered” money is not available for making loans and investments.

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Category: Think Tank