Weekly credit update comments

I got this email supporting the idea that bank credit expansion has been at the expense of non bank lenders, with low total credit growth.

As previously discussed, I don’t see the credit growth necessary to sustain the 3%+ GDP growth being forecast. Instead, I see the q1 negative growth and H1 total growth of only 1.2% as indicative of the underlying trend.

Warren: With respect to the recent “surge” in bank credit, please see below info that I prepared from Z.1. I recall you once suggesting that the expansion in bank credit may be attributed to banks taking share from non-bank lenders. Based on below table and graphs, that appears to be the case. When you combine bank and non-bank lenders (what I refer to as “Bank & Non-Bank Finance”), growth in credit market assets is essentially zero/nominal over recent periods, and you can see the recent increase in bank credit appears to be largely offset by a decrease in non-bank credit. Most non-banks are essentially “agents” of banks in my opinion so should view together for macro perspective. Note below that my definition of “Adjusted Credit Market Assets” is the FRB’s definition plus money market, rev repo and security credit. Not sure if this is the “correct” way to view things and I could be way off base but figured may be worth passing along. Also, for the “Insurance & Inv Mgmt” Sectors, I think the growth there may support your demand leakage narrative (but excludes equities). Thx

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Posted in Banking, Credit, Fed |

There is no right time for the Fed to raise rates!

There is no right time for the Fed to raise rates!

I reject the belief that economy is strong and operating anywhere near full employment. I also reject the belief that a zero-rate policy is inflationary, supports aggregate demand, or weakens the currency, or that higher rates slow the economy and reduce inflation. Additionally, I reject the mainstream view that employment is materially improving, the output gap is closing, and inflation is rising and returning to the Fed’s targets.

What I am asserting is that the Fed and the mainstream have it backwards with regard to how interest rates interact with the economy. They have it backwards with regard to both the current health of the economy and inflation, and, therefore, their discussion of appropriate monetary policy is entirely confused and inapplicable.

Furthermore, while I recognize that raising rates supports both aggregate demand and inflation, I am categorically against raising rates for that purpose. Instead, I propose making the zero-rate policy permanent and supporting demand with a full FICA tax suspension. And for a stronger price anchor than today’s unemployment policy, I propose a federally funded transition job for anyone willing and able to work to facilitate the transition from unemployment to private sector employment. Together these proposals support far higher levels of employment and price stability.

So when is the appropriate time to raise rates? I say never. Instead, leave the fed funds rate at zero, permanently, by law, and use fiscal adjustments to sustain full employment.

My first point of contention with the mainstream is their presumption that low rates are supportive of aggregate demand and inflation through a variety of channels, including credit, expectations, and foreign exchange channels.

The problem with the mainstream credit channel is that it relies on the assumption that lower rates encourage borrowing to spend. At a micro level this seems plausible- people will borrow more to buy houses and cars, and business will borrow more to invest. But it breaks down at the macro level. For every dollar borrowed there is a dollar saved, so any reduction in interest costs for borrowers corresponds to an identical reduction for savers. The only way a rate cut would result in increased borrowing to spend would be if the propensity to spend of borrowers exceeded that of savers. The economy, however, is a large net saver, as government is an equally large net payer of interest on its outstanding debt. Therefore, rate cuts directly reduce government spending and the economy’s private sector’s net interest income. And looking at over two decades of zero-rates and QE in Japan, 6 years in the US, and 5 years of zero and now negative rates in the EU, the data is also telling me that lowering rates does not support demand, output, employment, or inflation. In fact, the only arguments that they do are counter factual- the economy would have been worse without it- or that it just needs more time. By logical extension, zero-rates and QE have also kept us from being overrun by elephants (not withstanding that they lurk in every room).

The second channel is the inflation expectations channel. This presumes that inflation is caused by inflation expectations, with those expecting higher prices to both accelerate purchases and demanding higher wages, and that lower rates will increase inflation expectations.

I don’t agree. First, with the currency itself a simple public monopoly, as a point of logic the price level is necessarily a function of prices paid by government when it spends (and/or collateral demanded when it lends), and not inflation expectations. And the income lost to the economy from reduced government interest payments works to reduce spending, regardless of expectations. Nor is there evidence of the collective effort required for higher expected prices to translate into higher wages. At best, organized demands for higher wages develop only well after the wage share of GDP falls.

Lower rates are further presumed to be supportive through the foreign exchange channel, causing currency depreciation that enhances ‘competitiveness’ via lower real wage costs for exporters along with an increase in inflation expectations from consumers facing higher prices for imports.

In addition to rejecting the inflation expectations channel, I also reject the presumption that lower rates cause currency depreciation and inflation, as does most empirical research. For example, after two decades of 0 rate policies the yen remained problematically strong and inflation problematically low. And the same holds for the euro and $US after many years of near zero-rate policies. In fact, theory and evidence points to the reverse- higher rates tend to weaken a currency and support higher levels of inflation.

There is another aspect to the foreign exchange channel, interest rates, and inflation. The spot and forward price for a non perishable commodity imply all storage costs, including interest expense. Therefore, with a permanent zero-rate policy, and assuming no other storage costs, the spot price of a commodity and its price for delivery any time in the future is the same. However, if rates were, say, 10%, the price of those commodities for delivery in the future would be 10% (annualized) higher. That is, a 10% rate implies a 10% continuous increase in prices, which is the textbook definition of inflation! It is the term structure of risk free rates itself that mirrors a term structure of prices which feeds into both the costs of production as well as the ability to pre-sell at higher prices, thereby establishing, by definition, inflation.

Finally, I see the output gap as being a lot higher than the mainstream does. While the total number of people reported to be working has increased, so has the population. To adjust for that look at the percentage of the population that’s employed, and it’s pretty much gone sideways since 2009, while in every prior recovery it went up at a pretty good clip once things got going:

The mainstream says this drop is all largely structural, meaning people got older or otherwise decided they didn’t want to work and dropped out of the labor force. The data clearly shows that in a good economy this doesn’t happen, and certainly not to this extreme degree. Instead what we are facing is a massive shortage of aggregate demand.

There is no right time for the Fed to raise rates. The economy continues to fail us, and monetary policy is not capable of fixing it. Instead the fed funds rate should be permanently set at zero (further implying the Treasury sell only 3 month t bills), leaving it to Congress to employ fiscal adjustments to meet their employment and price stability mandates.

Posted in Deficit, Fed, Government Spending, Interest Rates, Proposal |

Export and import prices

Deflationary chill coming in through the trade channel.

Import and Export Prices

Cross-border inflationary pressures remain dormant including import prices which fell 0.5 percent in September for the third straight decline. Year-on-year, import prices are deep into the deflationary zone at minus 0.9 percent. The drop in imported petroleum prices, down 2.0 percent in the month and down 6.6 percent year-on-year, is a key factor in the import-price decline, but even when excluding petroleum, import prices fell 0.2 percent in the month. Year-on-year, the ex-petroleum reading is in the plus column but not by much, at plus 0.7 percent.

Export prices fell 0.2 percent for a second straight monthly decline and are also down 0.2 percent year-on-year. Here, agricultural prices are a key factor, down 0.9 percent in the month and down 2.9 percent year-on-year. When excluding agriculture, export prices also fell 0.2 percent on the month and are unchanged year-on-year.

Posted in Trade |

Macro update

First this, supporting what I’ve been writing about all along:

Here’s Proof That Congress Has Been Dragging Down The Economy For Years

By Shane Ferro

Oct 8 (Business Insider) — In honor of the new fiscal year, the Brookings Institution released the Fiscal Impact Measure, an interactive chart by senior fellow Louise Sheiner that shows how the balance of government spending and tax revenues have affected US GDP growth.

The takeaway? Fiscal policies have been a drag on economic growth since 2011.

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And earlier today it was announced that August wholesale sales were down .7%, while inventories were up .7%. This means they produced the same but sold less and the unsold inventory is still there. Not good!

Unfortunately the Fed has the interest rate thing backwards, as in fact rate cuts slow the economy and depress inflation. So with the Fed thinking the economy is too weak to hike rates, they leave rates at 0 which ironically keeps the economy where it is. Not that I would raise rates to help the economy. Instead I’ve proposed fiscal measures, as previously discussed.

Fed Minutes Show Concern About Weak Overseas Growth, Strong Dollar (WSJ) “Some participants expressed concern that the persistent shortfall of economic growth and inflation in the euro area could lead to a further appreciation of the dollar and have adverse effects on the U.S. external sector,” according to the minutes. “Several participants added that slower economic growth in China or Japan or unanticipated events in the Middle East or Ukraine might pose a similar risk.” “Several participants thought that the current forward guidance regarding the federal funds rate suggested a longer period before liftoff, and perhaps also a more gradual increase in the federal funds rate thereafter, than they believed was likely to be appropriate given economic and financial conditions,” the minutes said.

The case for patience strengthens yet further by a consideration of the risks around the outlook. Across GS economics and markets research, we have recently cut our 2015 growth forecasts for China, Germany, and Italy, noted the continued weakness in Japan, and made a further upgrade to our already-bullish dollar views. So far, our analysis suggests that the spillovers from foreign demand weakness and currency appreciation only pose modest risks to US growth and inflation. But at the margin they amplify the asymmetric risks facing monetary policy at the zero bound emphasized by Chicago Fed President Charles Evans. If the FOMC raises the funds rate too late and inflation moves modestly above the 2% target, little is lost. But if the committee hikes too early and has to reverse course, the consequences are potentially more serious given the limited tools available at the zero bound for short-term rates.

Germany not looking good:

German exports plunge by largest amount in five-and-a-half years (Reuters) German exports slumped by 5.8 percent in August, their biggest fall since the height of the global financial crisis in January 2009. The Federal Statistics Office said late-falling summer vacations in some German states had contributed to the fall in both exports and imports. Seasonally adjusted imports falling 1.3 percent on the month, after rising 4.8 percent in July. The trade surplus stood at 17.5 billion euros, down from 22.2 billion euros in July and less than a forecast 18.5 billion euros. Later on Thursday a group of leading economic institutes is poised to sharply cut its forecasts for German growth. The top economic priority of Merkel’s government is to deliver on its promise of a federal budget that is in the black in 2015.

UK peaking?

London house prices fall in Sept. for first time since 2011: RICS (Reuters) The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said prices in London fell for the first time since January 2011. The RICS national balance slid to +30 for September from a downwardly revised +39 in August. The RICS data is based on its members’ views on whether house prices in particular regions have risen or fallen in the past three months. British house prices are around 10 percent higher than a year ago, and house prices in London have risen by more than twice that. Over the next 12 months, they predict prices will rise 1 percent in London and 2 percent in Britain as a whole. Over the next five years, it expects average annual price growth of just under 5 percent.

British Chambers of Commerce warns of ‘alarm bell’ for UK recovery (Reuters) “The strong upsurge in manufacturing at the start of the year appears to have run its course. We may be hearing the first alarm bell for the UK,” said British Chambers of Commerce director-general John Longworth. The BCC said growth in goods exports as well as export orders for goods and services was its lowest since the fourth quarter of 2012. Services exports grew at the slowest rate since the third quarter of 2012. Manufacturers’ growth in domestic sales and orders slowed sharply from a record high in the second quarter to its lowest since the second quarter of 2013. However, sales remained strong in the services sector and confidence stayed high across the board.

Not to forget the stock market is a pretty fair leading indicator.

Some even say it causes what comes next:

Posted in Fed, Germany, Government Spending, UK, USA |

Fed minutes

Bill McBride and I agree this is the key takeaway.

That is, the Fed still sees the risks as asymmetrical and therefore prefers to err on the side of ease. So stocks soar on the belief that low rates from the Fed will support earnings and valuations, as interest rates stay low believing the Fed will keep rates lower for longer.

Theory and evidence, however, continues to support my narrative that 0 rates and QE are deflationary and contractionary biases, and therefore the economy won’t accelerate as hoped for and as forecast by those believing otherwise.

FOMC Minutes: “Costs of downside shocks to the economy would be larger than those of upside shocks”

Note: Not every member of the FOMC agrees, but I think this is the key sentence: “the costs of downside shocks to the economy would be larger than those of upside shocks because, in current circumstances, it would be less problematic to remove accommodation quickly, if doing so becomes necessary, than to add accommodation”.

Posted in Fed, Inflation | Tagged |

Consumer credit way down and downward revisions as well

As I suggested previously, the well hyped ‘credit acceleration’ has fizzled indicating most GDP growth forecasts could be grossly overstated:

Revolving credit outstanding had been edging higher in what had been a good indication for consumer spending but not in August, slipping $0.2 billion to end five straight months of gains. Non-revolving credit outstanding, boosted by strong vehicle sales and the government’s continued acquisition of student loans from private lenders, rose yet again, up $13.7 billion for the 36th straight month of increase. But the gain for the non-revolving component is the smallest since January and, combined with the slippage in revolving credit, made for a lower-than-expected total increase of $13.5 billion. This compares with Econoday expectations for $20 billion and is the lowest total increase since November. The consumer sector, the largest sector of the economy, has not been a stand-out contributor which has held back the recovery in general, and part of this drag is a reluctance among consumers to borrow.

Posted in Comodities |

The 10th Plague

Several years ago I began using the analogy of the 10th plague of the Old Testament, the idea being that the EU wouldn’t move away from austerity until it brought down Germany itself. It’s looking like that day is getting a whole lot closer, as austerity has not only damaged Germany’s export markets in the rest of the EU, but has also caused the rest of the EU to become more competitive vs Germany in the external markets, which have themselves been weakened by their own austerity policies.

German industry output plunges most in over 5 years

Oct 7 (Reuters) — German industrial output fell far more than expected in August and posted its biggest drop since the financial crisis in early 2009, Economy Ministry data showed on Tuesday, the latest figures to raise question marks about Europe’s largest economy.

The 4.0 percent month-on-month drop missed the consensus forecast in a Reuters poll for a 1.5 percent decrease and came short even of the lowest forecast for a 3.0 percent fall. It was the biggest drop since a 6.9 percent fall in January 2009.

Posted in Germany, Government Spending |

WRKO interview

Warren Mosler on the Economy

Posted in Uncategorized |

EU Commission- more of same


Latvia’s Dombrovskis Brings Fiscal Hawk Record to EU Commission

By Mathew Dalton

Oct 5 (WSJ) — The budget hawk who steered Latvia out of economic collapse with a bruising austerity program is poised to get one of the EU’s top economic-policy jobs as Europe is heading toward a clash over austerity.

Former Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis is nominated to join the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, as one of its top economic policy makers. When he appears before the European Parliament for his confirmation hearing on Monday, one of the main questions will likely be whether he plans to bring the tough policies he used in Latvia to a much bigger stage.

A host of Europe’s deep-seated economic problems await him. They include anemic growth, high unemployment and the threat of deflation, all of which may haunt the region for years to come.

The 43-year-old Mr. Dombrovskis, whose portfolio will include oversight of national budgets, will be at the center of the debate now raging in Europe about whether tight budgets will exacerbate those problems and fuel the rise of extremist, anti-EU political parties.

His most immediate problem will be how to bring the finances of the French and Italian governments back in line with the EU’s budget rules. Paris and Rome argue the dismal shape of their economies means they should be granted more time to hit EU budget targets.

Wielding degrees in economics and physics, Mr. Dombrovskis brings formidable technical skills to the debates that lie ahead, say people who have worked with him, along with a free-market—some would say right-wing—economic philosophy and a direct personal style. “He’s very focused on fiscal rigor,” said Olli Rehn, a member of the European Parliament and the EU’s previous economics commissioner, who worked with Mr. Dombrovskis on an international bailout for Latvia in 2009. “He’s quite blunt and quite straightforward. I don’t know if that is being right-wing or not.”

Under Mr. Dombrovskis’s leadership, Latvia adopted sharp spending cuts to win emergency loans from the EU and the International Monetary Fund. His government kept the Latvian currency pegged to the euro, a measure that many economists say deepened the country’s pain.

The economy ultimately shrank by 25%. Poverty soared, as did emigration. The IMF sometimes chided Mr. Dombrovskis’s government for not doing enough to shield poorer Latvians from the hardship of the crisis.

Mr. Dombrovskis said that Latvia had no other choice but to cut deeply and that he wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Latvian solution for other countries. “I don’t think we can say that something is mechanically applicable from one situation to another,” he said.But he does argue that cutting the budget deficit quickly, as Latvia did in 2009 and 2010, is the best way to stabilize government finances. That puts him at odds with some economists and European officials, who have argued that sharp cuts can actually widen the deficit by throwing the economy into a deep recession. Mr. Dombrovskis also sought to temper his image as a hard-core budget hawk: “I see my task as balancing the economic and financial side, with the social side,” he said.

Einars Repše, Mr. Dombrovskis’s finance minister, said that Mr. Dombrovskis often mediated between competing forces in the government on budget questions.

“I recollect him being more on the cautious side than myself,” Mr. Repše said. “I was much more a supporter of radical and immediate consolidation.”

Starting in 2011, Latvia posted some of the highest growth rates in the EU. Its bailout program has been hailed a success by officials in Brussels and Washington, burnishing Mr. Dombrovskis’s international profile. Yet the unemployment rate is still 11% and many of the country’s younger and better-educated workers have emigrated, facts that often go unmentioned by Latvia’s boosters.

“There is still much more to do in Latvia,” Mr. Dombrovskis acknowledges.

In the next commission, with Jean-Claude Juncker as president, Mr. Dombrovskis is expected to be the hawkish foil to Pierre Moscovici, the dovish former French finance minister with whom he will share decision-making powers over national budgets. Mr. Rehn said the turmoil of the Latvian bailout, when his government occasionally came to the brink of collapse, should serve him well as he navigates the commission’s internal debates.

“He has cool nerves and strong composure,” Mr. Rehn said, “and he can intellectually handle difficult situations under pressure.”

Posted in CBs, ECB |

Talking points for 11am WRKO radio interview

Jobs: Just keeping up with population growth- 59% three months in a row, not at all ‘recovering’ as in prior cycles. So seems the extra jobs are from underestimating population growth?

Spending- working its way lower after the tax hikes and sequesters. Q3 201313 was supported by unsold inventories, Q4 13 by expiring tax credits, then down for Q1 2014 as inventories were reduced and cold weather hurt some, and a Q2 bounce that resulted in only 1.2% growth for the first half of this year:

You can see how in the previous cycle the large drop in the growth rate was followed by a rebound to much higher rates of growth. The current cycle saw a much larger decline in GDP that was followed by lower rates of growth that now seem to be further declining:

You can see the persistent shift down after the last recession that didn’t happen in prior cycles:

Inflation? 6 years of 0 rates, over 4 trillion of QE, and the Fed still can’t hit it’s 2% target? Maybe it’s not so easy to inflate as most think? And just maybe the Fed has it all backward, and 0 rates and QE are deflationary?

Like the hairdresser said, “no matter how much I cut off its still too short”:

Posted in Employment, GDP |