Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Schiff speaks at Jackson Hole Summit | VIDEO

Peter Schiff is a smart investor and author of several best selling books. He correctly predicted the economic meltdown of 2008 - 2009

Monday, September 28, 2015

Governments indirectly causing higher tuition rates at universities

You have students graduating waiting on tables and driving taxi cabs with $50,000 to $100,000 worth of debt. They majored in nothing. They studied Liberal Arts. They wasted their time. They wasted money. There’s no hope of ever paying it back. It’s a typical example of how the government destroys everything it gets into. The government wanted to make college more affordable. They made it more expensive.

The government all of a sudden sees a bunch of college students and they want their votes. So how do they get their votes? “Hey, we’ll make it easier for you so you don’t have to go out and get a job to go to college. You don’t have to do that. We’ll loan you some money. We’ll guarantee your loans so you can borrow money at a really low rate of interest. It will be like a U.S. Treasury [Note]."

The government solution is, “We’ll make more money available. We’ll make more loans. We’ll make more scholarships.” The universities say, “Great! We can raise our prices even faster now because our customers have even more government money to pay the tuitions.”

Peter Schiff is a smart investor and author of several best selling books. He correctly predicted the economic meltdown of 2008 - 2009

Monday, September 21, 2015

Why more QE will be coming ahead

Every dictator knows that a continuous state of emergency is the best means to justify tyrannical policies. The trick is to keep the fictitious emergency from breeding so much paranoia that routine activities come to a halt. Many have discovered that its best to make the threat external, intangible and ultimately, unverifiable. In Orwell's 1984 the preferred mantra was "We've always been at war with Eurasia," even though everyone knew it wasn't true. In its rate decision this week the Federal Reserve, adopted a similar approach and conjured up an external threat to maintain a policy that is becoming increasingly absurd.  

In blaming its continued inaction on "uncertainties abroad" (an excuse never before invoked by the Fed in the current period of zero interest rates), the Fed was able to maintain the pretense of a strong domestic economy, and its desire to lift rates at the earliest appropriate moment while continuing the economic life support of zero percent rates. Unbelievably, the media swallowed the propaganda hook, line, and sinker.  

Over the summer it all seemed so certain. In mid-August the Wall Street Journal conducted a poll revealing that 95% of economists expected a rate hike by the end of 2015, with 82% expecting the first move to come in September. On July 29, Marketwatch reported that changes in Fed language were the "smoking gun" that made a September move a certainty. I was one of the few who publicly predicted that all the tough talk from the Fed was a bluff, and that there would be no hike in 2015. For taking that stance, I was largely ignored and ridiculed. In a July 16 interview on CNBC's Futures Now (I am no longer invited to be on their television broadcasts), pundit Scott Nations took me to task for making the "outlandish" suggestion that the Fed would not raise in 2015, saying (to paraphrase):

"If price is truth and Fed funds futures are the collective wisdom of everybody in the world, and they are absolutely a lock for the Fed to raise rates by the end of the year, why is everybody else wrong and you are right?" 

But now, in mid-September, it has all changed, far fewer economists expect a hike this year. However, despite this dramatic reversal, few have downgraded their forecasts or weakened their belief that the Fed remains committed to tighten policy...eventually. In other words, the Fed has achieved a complete communications victory.

Just like it has in prior statements, the Fed painted a picture of a stable and growing economy that was ready for a hike. In fact, in her press conference, Janet Yellen said that the Fed was "impressed" by the strength of the domestic economy. Although such statements began to resemble the film Groundhog Day, no one seems to tire of it.

A cornucopia of metaphors should have come to mind: The Fed's bite had failed to live up to its bark; its "open mouth" operations wrote a check that its Open Market Committee was unable to cash; the Fed has become Lucy of the comic strip Peanuts, always promising to hold the football for Charlie Brown to kick, but always taking it away before he kicks it. Instead, the dominant theme of the coverage was that the Fed's understanding of the global economy was just better than the rest of us. It apparently understood that a 25 basis point increase in rates in the U.S. could ripple through to the world markets and could potentially push China's tottering stock market into the abyss. That was a risk it believed was not worth taking.

To keep the story line going requires that the steady torrent of negative data be ignored (see manufacturing data in September Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey of Philly Fed]. Similar weakness is evident in business investment, productivity, and consumer confidence numbers. Based on those data sets, conventional Keynesian “wisdom” suggests the Fed should be preparing a fresh round of stimulus, not readying its first economic sedative in nine years.

The big news is the introduction of "international developments" as an ongoing input into the Fed's rate deliberation process. This addition allows the Fed nearly limitless latitude to perpetually kick the can down the road. After all, it is a great big world, and it will always be possible to find a problem somewhere. A Reuters article issued after the decision describes the new reality (9/18/15, Howard Schneider):

"It is a situation that could leave the Fed stranded in its hunt for a rate liftoff until the entire global economy is growing in sync, and the horizon is clear of risks."

So there you have it. The Fed is no longer just the central bank of the United States, but the central bank of the entire world. As such it will need to consider any possible negative impacts, anywhere, before it pulls the trigger. This isn't just moving the goalposts; it is dismantling them completely, putting them in crates, and losing them in a government warehouse...much like the Ark of the Covenant at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie. 

The height of yesterday's absurdity came during Janet Yellen's press conference when Ann Saphir from Reuters asked her about the possibility that interest rates could stay at zero "forever." While characterizing that likelihood as "extreme," Yellen incredibly stated that she could not rule out the possibility. Of course the absurd suggestion that American civilization may never see rates above zero did not even raise eyebrows in the mainstream media. But the statement itself raises some interesting questions about Yellen's actual thinking. First, how can she really be contemplating at 2015 rate hike, if she cannot even rule out the possibility of rates remaining at zero forever? Second, is she really that naïve and arrogant to believe that currency markets would allow the Fed to hold interest rates at zero indefinitely, without creating a dollar crisis, even if the Fed wanted to hold them there?

As I have maintained continuously, rate hike talk from the Fed is just a bluff to disguise its inability to tighten, as even small increases could be sufficient to prick the biggest bubble it has ever inflated. It is no coincidence that the stunning 170% increase in the Dow Jones, that occurred between March 2009 and the end of 2014, happened while the Fed was stimulating the economy almost continuously with QE, and that the rally came to an abrupt end when the QE stopped.

The recent 10% correction on Wall Street confirms to me just how sensitive the markets remain to the prospect of any rates higher than zero. In reality, that sell-off was a much greater factor than China in keeping the Fed quiet. That steep correction occurred at a time when most forecasters believed that a September hike was in the cards. For years, they had known that a rate hike was coming, but they always thought it would arrive when the economy was healthy. But when the big day became a clear and present danger, and the economy was still less than optimal, markets began to panic. It was only when Fed officials came out with publicly dovish statements that the sell-off ended. Despite this obvious connection, the markets are still blaming China, despite the fact that big sell-offs in China had been occurring for much of 2015 without sparking follow on panics in the U.S. 

As a result, it should be clear that ongoing Fed decision-making is not just "data dependent" (and now we are talking about international, not just domestic, data), but also "market dependent," meaning the Fed won't raise rates if markets sell off sharply on expectations that it will raise. Given these impossible conditions, perhaps a perpetual zero rates are not so outlandish. But the reality is Central banks can't really control interest rates across the spectrum, just the short end of the curve...when markets really panic, they won't be able to stop economically devastating interest rate spikes on the long end. 

In the meantime, I can only hope that the foreign exchange and commodity markets are finally getting the picture that the Fed appears impotent. The tremendous rally in the dollar over the past 18 months was predicated on the belief that interest rates would be rising in the U.S. just as they were falling everywhere else. Now that that premise is in tatters, the dollar should be giving back its undeserved gains. Recent moves in the foreign exchange market reveal that this is the case.    

When the year began, opinion was divided between those who thought the Fed would move in March, and those who thought it wouldn't happen until June. When June came and went, September became the odds-on favorite. Now those same experts are once again divided between December and sometime in 2016. When will these "experts" finally connect the real dots and discover that the monetary medicine that the Fed has doused over the economy since 2008 has only created a weak and utterly dependent economy. A rate hike is supposed to be a signal that the economy has a clean bill of health. But as the patient fails to recover, another dose of QE will be just what the doctor orders.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Fed will not raise rates and this is why

I don't think the Fed ever really, seriously considered raising rates in the first place.

I think they wanted to create that impression, they wanted the markets to believe that rate hikes were under consideration, because they want markets to believe that the economic recovery is legitimate and that the economy can actually withstand the higher rates that they're pretending that they're ready to deliver.

But I think it's all been part of a show to mask the fact that the Fed understands all we have is a gigantic bubble, not a real recovery, and if they were to raise rates, they would prick that bubble. That's the last thing they want to do, which is why all they do is talk about raising rates, but haven't actually followed through with any of that talk.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

US Dollar will collapse by more QE

There is a growing sense across the financial spectrum that the world is about to turn some type of economic page. Unfortunately no one in the mainstream is too sure what the last chapter was about, and fewer still have any clue as to what the next chapter will bring. There is some agreement however, that the age of ever easing monetary policy in the U.S. will be ending at the same time that the Chinese economy (that had powered the commodity and emerging market booms) will be finally running out of gas. While I believe this theory gets both scenarios wrong (the Fed will not be tightening and China will not be falling off the economic map), there is a growing concern that the new chapter will introduce a new character into the economic drama. As introduced by researchers at Deutsche Bank, meet "Quantitative Tightening," the pesky, problematic, and much less disciplined kid brother of "Quantitative Easing."  Now that QE is ready to move out...QT is prepared to take over.

For much of the past generation foreign central banks, led by China, have accumulated vast quantities of foreign reserves. In August of last year the amount topped out at more than $12 trillion, an increase of five times over levels seen just 10 years earlier. During that time central banks added on average $824 billion in reserves per year. The vast majority of these reserves have been accumulated by China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the emerging market economies in Asia. 

It is widely accepted, although hard to quantify, that approximately two-thirds of these reserves are held in U.S. dollar denominated instruments, the most common being U.S. Treasury debt.

Initially this "Great Accumulation" (as it became known) was undertaken as a means to protect emerging economies from the types of shocks that they experienced during the 1997-98 Asian Currency Crisis, in which emerging market central banks lacked the ammunition to support their free falling currencies through market intervention. It was hoped that large stockpiles of reserves would allow these banks to buy sufficient amounts of their own currencies on the open market, thereby stemming any steep falls. The accumulation was also used as a primary means for EM central banks to manage their exchange rates and prevent unwanted appreciation against the dollar while the Greenback was being depreciated through the Federal Reserve's QE and zero interest rate policies.

The steady accumulation of Treasury debt provided tremendous benefits to the U.S. Treasury, which had needed to issue trillions of dollars in debt as a result of exploding government deficits that occurred in the years following the Financial Crisis of 2008. Without this buying, which kept active bids under U.S. Treasuries, long-term interest rates in the U.S. could have been much higher, which would have made the road to recovery much steeper. In addition, absent the accumulation, the declines in the dollar in 2009 and 2010 could have been much more severe, which would have put significant upward pressure on U.S. consumer prices.

But in 2015 the tide started to slowly ebb. By March of 2015 global reserves had declined by about $400 billion in just about 8 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Analysts at Citi estimate that global FX reserves have been depleted at an average pace of $59 billion a month in the past year or so, and closer to $100 billion per month over the last few months (Brace for China leads FX reserves purge, Reuters, 8/28/15). Some think that these declines stem largely by actions of emerging economies whose currencies have been falling rapidly against the U.S. dollar that had been lifted by the belief that a tightening cycle by the Fed was a near term inevitability.

It was speculated that China led the reversal, dumping more than $140 billion in Treasuries in just three months (through front transactions made through a Belgian intermediary - solving the so-called "Belgian Mystery") (China Dumps Record $143 Billion in US Treasurys in Three Months via Belgium, Zero Hedge, 7/17/15). The steep decline in the Chinese stock market has also sparked a flight of assets out of the Chinese economy. China has used FX sales as a means to stabilize its currency in the wake of this capital flight.

The steep fall in the price of oil in late 2014 and 2015 also has led to diminished appetite for Treasuries by oil producing nations like Saudi Arabia, which no longer needed to recycle excess profits into dollars to prevent their currencies from rising on the back of strong oil. The same holds true for nations like Russia, Brazil, Norway and Australia, whose currencies had previously benefited from the rising prices of commodities.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank see this liquidation trend holding for quite some time. However, new categories of buyers to replace these central bank sellers are unlikely to emerge. This changing dynamic between buyers and sellers will tend to lower bond prices, and increase bond yields (which move in the opposite direction as price). Citi estimates that every $500 billion in Emerging Markets FX drawdowns will result in 108 basis points of upward pressure placed on the yields of 10-year U.S. Treasurys (It's Official: China Confirms It Has Begun Liquidating Treasuries, Warns Washington, Zero Hedge, 8/27/15). This means that if just China were to dump its $1.1 trillion in Treasury holdings, U.S. interest rates would be about 2% higher. Such an increase in rates would present the U.S. economy and U.S. Treasury with the most daunting headwinds that they have seen in years. 

The Federal Reserve sets overnight interest rates through its much-watched Fed Funds rate (that has been kept at zero since 2008). But to control rates on the "long end of the curve' requires the Fed to purchase long-dated debt on the open market, a process known as Quantitative Easing. The buying helps push up bond prices and push down yields. It follows then that a process of large scale selling, by foreign central banks, or other large holders of bonds, should be known as Quantitative Tightening.

Potentially making matters much worse, Janet Yellen has indicated the Fed's desire to allow its current hoard of Treasurys to mature without rolling them over. The intention is to shrink the Fed's $4.5 trillion dollar balance sheet back to its pre-crisis level of about $1 trillion. That means, in addition to finding buyers for all those Treasurys being dumped on the market by foreign central banks, the Treasury may also have to find buyers for $3.5 trillion in Treasurys that the Fed intends on not rolling over. The Fed has stated that it hopes to effectuate the drawdown by the end of the decade, which translates into about $700 billion in bonds per year. That's just under $60 billion per month (or slightly smaller than the $85 billion per month that the Fed had been buying through QE). Given the enormity of central bank selling, and the incredibly low yields offered on U.S. Treasurys, I cannot imagine any private investor willing to step in front of that freight train.

So even as the Fed apparently is preparing to raise rates on the short end of the curve, forces beyond its control will be pushing rates up on the long end of the curve. This will seriously undermine the health of the U.S. economy even while many signs already point to near recession level weakness. Just this week, data was released that showed U.S. factory orders decreasing 14.7% year-over-year, which is the ninth month in a row that orders have declined year-over-year. Historically, this type of result has only occurred either during a recession, or in the lead up to a recession. 

The August jobs report issued today, which was supposed to be the most important such report in years, as it would be the final indication as to whether the Fed would finally move in September, provided no relief for the Fed's quandaries. While the headline rate fell to a near generational low of 5.1%, the actual hiring figures came in at just 173,000 jobs, which was well below even the low end of the consensus forecast. Private sector hiring led the weakness, manufacturing jobs declined, and the labor participation rate remained at the lowest level since 1976. So even while the Fed is indicating that it is still on track for a rate hike, all the conditions that Janet Yellen wanted to see confirmed before an increase are not materializing. This is a recipe for more uncertainty, even while certainty increases overseas that U.S. Treasurys are troubled long term investments.

The arrival of Quantitative Tightening will provide years' worth of monetary headwinds. Of course the only tool that the Fed will be able to use to combat international QT will be a fresh dose of domestic QE. That means the Fed will not only have to shelve its plan to allow its balance sheet to run down (a plan I never thought remotely feasible from the moment it was announced), but to launch QE4, and watch its balance sheet swell towards $10 trillion. Of course, these monetary crosscurrents should finally be enough to capsize the U.S. dollar.

Peter Schiff is a smart investor and author of several best selling books. He correctly predicted the economic meltdown of 2008 - 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dow will drop over 1000 if the Fed hike rates

It’s not just a 580 points [on the Dow] we drop today or the 530 on Friday or the 350 on Thursday. We have thousands and thousands of points to surrender if the Fed is actually going to follow through with its threats to raise interest rates.

Peter Schiff is a smart investor and author of several best selling books. He correctly predicted the economic meltdown of 2008 - 2009