Ben has uttered, but do you remember the days when we hung on the every word that Alan Greenspan spoke? Sad bastard that I am I used to print out his speeches and inwardly ingest…They were always seven A4 pages long and, whilst the sound bite that the world’s press reported on was on page one, the real message was at the end of page seven…long after the MSMs (main stream media) attention span had given up the ghost.
The Bernanke is somewhat less voluble than the former Master of the Universe so he has only begat six pages in his latest diatribe. However… page six says it all.
Finally, and perhaps most challenging, the country would be well served by a better process for making fiscal decisions.
The negotiations that took place over the summer disrupted financial markets and probably the economy as well, and similar events in the future could, over time, seriously jeopardize the willingness of investors around the world to hold U.S. financial assets or to make direct investments in job-creating U.S. businesses.
Although details would have to be negotiated, fiscal policymakers could consider developing a more effective process that sets clear and transparent budget goals, together with budget mechanisms to establish the credibility of those goals. Of course, formal budget goals and mechanisms do not replace the need for fiscal policymakers to make the difficult choices that are needed to put the country’s fiscal house in order, which means that public understanding of and support for the goals of fiscal policy are crucial.
I have never been a fan of the Bernanke’s Keynesian economics but has he ever hit the nail on the head? “US Gov get your act together!” Play politics and you will burn in hell. A bunch of kids “praying” in their own paradise..
So where now? Another telling comment referred to the problems in Europe.
I have confidence that our European colleagues fully appreciate what is at stake in the difficult issues they are now confronting and that, over time, they will take all necessary and appropriate steps to address those issues effectively and comprehensively.
Oh dear…now he is back in Wonderland…he has 50 states to bring with him…they all speak Coca Cola and Big Mac…but in Europe 27 countries all speak very different languages…and they will be the final arbiter of judgement day despite what the US of A thinks or does…regrettably… and seemingly they haven’t thought through what happens next.
August is traditionally holiday time in Europe, but the bond markets seem to be hotting up more than the weather, with Italian and Spanish yields on the up whilst Germany basks in the glow of borrowing costs below the rate of inflation. Has the Weimar Republic finally been consigned to history’s memory vacuum? I think not.
Bunds are perceived as safer than Italian or Spanish paper; witness headlines today saying that the latest buying of Bunds is a “flight to safety”, but how do you define “safe”. A whole litany of equity research is available using sovereign debt yields as a proxy for the risk free rate of return. Risk free they ain’t; Bunds, Treasuries and Gilts included. Try valuing stock markets using Greek yields as a risk free rate! Joking aside, maybe we should…
But German, US and UK 10 year yields are all below 3%. “Why”, you may ask, when monetary easing on such an unprecedented scale should have stoked an inflationary bonfire. In the short term the flight to safety argument is the answer as no one is going to default this week and the cash from equity sales has to go somewhere.
Could the bond market be anticipating a deflationary bust a la Japan? The Bernank wouldn’t allow that so some form of QE must be on the way, mustn’t it? Or is he trying to push the onus for keeping the Treasury market afloat back onto investors who are still brain washed into thinking it is risk free? My guess is he will keep printing until he gets what he wants. But be careful what you wish for your Supreme Federal Reserveness …
So what is risk free? Gold doesn’t provide any income return so why are some treating it as a safe haven? The Bank of Korea has just bought 25 tonnes of the stuff. Are they mad? Bernank would just say that they are being traditionalists. Why not have some bullion in the vaults; after all the central banks have been doing it for centuries but why this upsurge in demand by the CBs when not so very long ago they were sellers? When the won came under the cosh in the late 90’s Asian currency meltdown, the BoK asked the population to sell their jewellery to help prop it up; some even gave their gold away for free. Now that is madness!
Today gold gets the odd brief mention in the financial press as it continues to make new highs and journals such as the Economist spout the “barbarous relic” refrain at every opportunity. They should be reminded of P.J. O’Rourke’s quote that “Economics is an entire scientific discipline of not knowing what you’re talking about.” At a recent investment seminar, I asked the delegates if they had any exposure to gold. Not a single ETF, gold mining share or sovereign amongst the lot of them. Most had no idea that you could actually buy physical bars. Does that sound like a bubble to you?
Today’s footnote concerns government bureaucracy of which we have far too much; especially here in Europe. Did you know that the Lord’s Prayer contains 66 words, the Ten Commandments 179, the Declaration of Independence 1300, the US Constitution, with all 27 amendments 7,818 and the latest EU regulations on the sale of cabbage…….26,911. For that reason alone the EU should be disbanded so we can return to tending to our own allotments in peace.
Don’t you love farce?
My fault I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want,
Sorry my dear
But where are the clowns
There ought to be clowns
Quick send in the clowns, don’t bother they’re here…
So, after a week of superb pantomime, the debt ceiling has been raised (I am making a brave assumption that the vote tonight in the US will go the right way – if it doesn’t then can one of you turn the lights out?) and the world has not come to an end…yet. Pantomimes usually end on a high note, unlike Greek tragedies, but we all know they are just a “bit of theatre”.
The cunning plan is to reduce the deficit by $2.5 trillion over 10 years and at the same time raise the debt ceiling by the same amount which apparently will keep the US government in spending vouchers only up until 2013. How does this help?
Today’s Institute for Supply Management (ISM) PMI index came in at 50.9 against economists’ expectations of a low of 54.9. Any number below 50 and the US economy is contracting. The biggest drops occurred in prices and employment, and my guess, which is probably better than any economists forecast (having avoided partaking in the Keynesian Kool Aid), is that any saving in spending will be negated by a fall in tax receipts as the economy slows.
The Bernank has kept a very low profile whilst this has been going on although I suspect he has put his time to good use by boning up on the finer principles of obfuscation with the Murdochs. As a forward to the pantomime program the Fed is on record stating that there will be further monetary stimulus if the economy falters. It won’t of course be called QE3, but what’s in a name after all.
So by way of a foot note for those of you who think I live in a dungeon in a permanent state of darkness I have to tell you that I walked my daughter up the aisle last Saturday and after that I don’t believe the sun will ever set.