Posts Tagged central bank
Currently there are about $1.2 trillion in “excess reserves” in the banking system, an amount held by banks above and beyond their reserve requirements (needed to “back up” their existing customer checking account balances.) Commercial banks are free to lend it out to their customers however most banks keep their excess reserves parked at the Fed, and get paid by the Fed an annual percentage rate (APR) of 0.25 percent (25 “basis points.”) This means that the banks’ excess reserve balance grows annually by 25 basis points, a convenient way for banks to earn interest by incurring no risk. Whenever money is lent out there is a risk associated with it even if the underlying asset and the borrower are outstanding. If you’ve been wondering lately why banks are so picky with their lending guidelines you will find your answer in this article.
Few economists (mostly Austrian) pay attention to the Fed’s chairman fine print where Bernanke frequently mentions the Fed’s ability to offer higher interest rates on excess reserves. The question is why would Bernanke be prepared to entice commercial banks with higher rates to keep their money parked at the Fed?
To best answer this question we need to address the high probability of an increase in the prime rate (what commercial banks charge their best clients). So far the Fed has been able to keep this rate at extremely low levels however rising prices on commodities will most likely force the market to adjust and increase the cost of money. When rates go up the banks will want to start using their excess reserve to make new loans. The higher the rate the more eager the banks will be to earn profits from making new loans. Yet, Bernanke is prepared to do whatever it takes to stop those reserves from being used for lending.
The motive behind the Fed’s determination to keep banks from lending is hiding behind the complexity of the monetary base and its sinister expansion since the 2008 financial crises. There is a lot of talk today about the Fed’s creation of new money (out of thin air) but not enough is known – or talked – about its repercussions. Monetary expansion distorts the markets by pushing interest rates below their natural market level, it dilutes the value of currency, and it causes inflation or worse, hyperinflation.
As mentioned earlier there are $1.2 trillion in excess reserves currently parked at the Fed. The fractional-reserve banking system allows a bank to lend out $10 for each dollar it has in excess reserves. The problem is that the $10 being used for credit purpose is technically newly created money and is listed on the bank’s balance sheet. This action increases the monetary base when the credit issued in form of loans is being monetized. What Bernanke knows is that the $1.2 trillion in excess reserves could ultimately translate into an estimated $11 trillion in new money created by the banks, as they pyramid new loans on top of the base money he has injected.
Currently the money stock (M1) is at $1.9 trillion. If banks start lending out at their full potential the money stock can be increased by a factor of six. The effects of such an increase would be devastating to most Americans. If you think $4 per gallon at the pump is too much you’d rethink it if the price turns into six times $4. Can you imagine for a barrel of oil to jump from $100 to $600 in a relatively short period of time? I can and it’s not pretty! When oil prices rise the prices of all commodities usually follow. Keep in mind that salaries and wages would not follow such a huge increase in the cost of living.
So far, we haven’t seen a massive price inflation, because the banks are making very few loans. But the battle between the market and the Fed will soon show who the true winner is. The universe will prove that it is more powerful than the men at the Fed. And when the Central Bank loses its ability to suppress the rates, the commercial banks will begin using their excess reserves (currently parked at the Fed) by making new loans to their customers. When that happens, Bernanke will need to act fast to prevent banks from lending out their reserves.
History and the economic laws tell us that after long periods of discount rate suppression it is not surprising for the prime rate to escalate to 10%. In such a case banks will most likely not have a hard time deciding whether to keep their excess reserves at the Fed (for a safe .25%) or to draw them and make new loans at 10%. Substantially higher returns will be a great incentive. The Fed knows it and thus it will be willing to bribe the banks to keep them from drawing their reserves by increasing the yield it pays. Bernanke does not necessarily have to increase the yield to match the prime. If he offers a 7.25% to keep their reserves parked at the Fed, the banks would most likely accept the offer due to its ability to earn higher yields while taking no risk whatsoever.
For one thing, Bernanke and Geithner are praised for saving the financial system. Yet on the other hand, Bernanke admits that if banks started to lend out that money, he would offer them even more to stop. But by offering more money to banks the Fed’s income will substantially decrease and in this case it will remit less money to the Treasury. So, let’s do the math. On a balance of $1.2 trillion, if the Fed had to pay 7.5 percent interest, that would translate into $90 billion in annual payments to the banks. Last year the Federal reserve earned about $81 billion in net income. Out of this amount it remitted $78 billion to the Treasury. It is obvious that the $90 billion the Fed would pay the banks to not make loans would not be sufficient to cover the entire amount. What would happen in such an event not only the Treasury would stop receiving the billions from the Fed but will have to create more money to satisfy the bribe. This event would increase the federal deficit and the taxpayers would ultimately be the ones paying bankers to not give them loans.
This solution to “solve” the problem is one of the very few the Fed has at this time. Bernanke appears to be more inclined to go with this one versus the other two (pulling the reserves out of the system or change the fractional reserve banking system to a full reserve system.) Yet those “remedies” would cause the economy to fall into a depression much sooner. His approach does not necessarily mean that an economic depression could be avoided. All it does is to postpone the inevitable and defer it for a later time. With the elections being just around the corner the Fed (and the politicians) need to make us believe that everything is OK. Therefore the more subtle solution is to prevent banks from lending their excess reserves by paying them a yield. The yield is currently very low (.25%) but if needed, as always the taxpayers will come to the rescue. Ultimately people will pay the banks to not make them loans.
By Carolyn Cui The Wall Street Journal, Monday, May 9, 2011 After silver suffered its worst one-week drubbing in three decades, one of the biggest silver bulls gave a pep talk to hundreds of followers on Monday. "Silver will be a currency just like gold. It's logical to expect silver prices to go much higher," said Eric Sprott, chief executive officer of Sprott Asset Management LP, which oversees a $1-billion silver fund that was $327 million larger at the beginning of last week. As for the recent plunge, Mr. Sprott pointed at speculative short-sellers as the prime culprit, eliciting applause from the crowd of nervous believers. Silver skidded 27% last week, but poor man's gold leaped 5.2% today, underscoring its rodeo-like allure. Mr. Sprott, a big advocate for precious metals, trotted out familiar themes to back up his points: the Federal Reserve's loose monetary policies, relentless bank failures, and the fragile housing market. Continue to read HERE
Interviewed today by King World News, GoldMoney founder and GATA consultant James Turk remarks that the precious metals really aren’t naturally volatile in markets but are made so by frequent and surreptitious central bank intervention. In any case Turk discerns a bullish flag pattern developing in the silver price chart. From Turk’s lips to the Great Market Manipulator’s ear — and we don’t mean Bernanke. An excerpt from the interview with Turk is headlined “Silver Forming Another Bullish Flag Formation” and you can find it at the King World News blog here:
Interviewed Wednesday by King World News after the Federal Reserve chairman’s press conference, Euro-Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff remarked, “Whenever Ben Bernanke opens his mouth you want to sell anything that is related to the United States.” Indeed, gold and silver investors watching the TV screen with one eye and the gold and silver futures screen with the other were probably shouting, “Wait! Keep talking, Benny!,” as Bernanke walked off the stage at 3:15 p.m. Eastern time. But as much as Bernanke and the financial establishment are building the fundamentals for the precious metals, they are also engineering the ruin of a great country. Click HERE to read excerpts from Schiff’s interview. And I highly recommend you read Peter Schiff’s book, Crash Proof.
So, is the dollar going to survive during this decade? Those unfamiliar with the fundamentals of macro-economics may be inclined to say “yes”. Reality is that the national debt is unsustainable and the dollar is on the verge of losing its world reserve status. Keynesian Economics practiced for the past decades is clear that is not working. The decline of the dollar is associated with potentially a major loss in the purchasing power and this is the time to take the bull by the horns and position yourself to not only survive but to thrive.
So, how do you do that? In times such as these converting your dollars into tangible assets may be one of the smartest things in your life. Silver, gold, and other commodities are very desirable. Forget about the optimists that say we’re on the path of an economic recovery and don’t buy into the idea that gold or silver are in a bubble phase. The value of these commodities is being suppressed due to the avalanche of paper gold and paper silver created by Wall Street.
Real estate is another hard asset that if bought today in the long run will make you a happy camper. There are many ways to invest in real estate, you can do it as an active or a passive investor. You can buy the real property or you can invest in a fund that invests in real estate. Whatever your level of comfort is go for it.
When making the decision assess the opportunity by the following factors and ask yourself…
- does it generate substantial revenues during good times and bad times?
- is it made out of real assets that don’t vanish?
- does it maintain its capital value?
- does it keep up with inflation?
- is it made out of assets that satisfy one or more human needs (housing, food, energy, means of exchange)?
- can it be passed on to heirs and generate passive income for them?
Relying on the current main stream media news would most likely make one believe that we’re on the verge of an economic recovery. Despite the high unemployment rate, high number of foreclosures, a depressed real estate market, and rising prices on food and other commodities there’s plenty of optimism that comes straight from the Central Bank and the Treasury. But what the officials don’t take the time to explain in a logical manner is how can our debt burdened economy truly recover after decades of (Federal Reserve induced) bubbles and busts.
Except for a minority of economists and investors the topic of sound money has never been put up for discussion. Because there is a direct correlation between sound (or unsound) money and the economy it is imperative to understand the meaning of sound money and its opposite, fiat currency.
Sound money is characterized as money backed by a tangible asset such as gold, for example. Gold is a commodity that has been used by humans for thousands of years as a form of money. Because it comes with a limited supply it is the ideal specie. A gold backed dollar retains its value because unlike fiat currency (the dollar we have today) it cannot be created out of thin air. It makes our government and our politicians accountable since they would be less able to fund new and expensive government programs. Sound money is at the core of a free market economy and individual freedom.
To better understand the most recent history of the U.S. dollar it’s best to know that we did have a gold standard until 1971. However, shortly after the birth of the Federal Reserve in 1913 the dollar’s position had been weakened. The nation’s monetary policy had since been transferred by Congress in the hands of a few powerful international bankers. Beside managing the nation’s money accounts the Federal Reserve’s main activity consists in actually creating money that distorts production and creates inflation and the business cycle. During World War I the gold standard had been temporarily removed specifically to finance the war. During this time the window of opportunity for the Fed’s creation of new credit and money supply had been fully exploited. The dollar experienced a significant decline however, the return to gold standard (prompting a reversal of inflation) helped regain partial stability.
In 1933 president Franklin Roosevelt had taken the first step of the removal from the gold standard when Americans were no longer allowed to exchange dollar notes for gold. Whatever was left of the old gold standard applied only to exchange amongst Central Banks and between the U.S. government and other countries.
After World War II the Bretton Woods system fixed the value of the dollar to $35 per ounce of gold. Uncontrolled government spending however, led to United States government’s inability to meet its obligation of redeeming other countries’ dollars for gold. More dollars flooded the world and as other countries requested to redeem the U.S. dollars they owned more gold was being sent oversees to these governments. The U.S government’s inability to provide the physical gold to meet the international investors’ needs of redeem-ability may lead us to believe that more dollar notes were printed and used in the world than physical gold existed at Fort Knox. As a result, the value of the dollar began to decline. Finally the government recognized that the United States was no longer able to redeem dollars for gold, so president Nixon completely closed the gold standard by removing all the dollar’s ties to gold in 1971. The dollar has officially become a fiat currency.
Over the long run it’s clear that the prior gold standard kept inflation in check. For example, the value of a 1880 dollar was maintained all the way until 1914, the year after the birth of the Central Bank (Federal Reserve).
Since 1971 the value of the U.S. dollar declined significantly due to its removal from the gold standard. The Federal Reserve continued to increase the money supply by creating new credit and dollar bills out of thin air. The dollar however maintained a powerful position amongst fiat currency for a long time due to the 1971 and 1973 agreements between OPEC and the U.S. that enacted the world’s oil trading to be exclusively in U.S. dollars. These events gave the dollar the status of the world reserve currency. The high demand for (petro)dollars on the international exchange markets gave the government, the central bank, and the politicians the opportunity to abuse it by printing more money to satisfy their desires for financial gains and power.
In his 1966 essay “Gold and Economic Freedom” Alan Greenspan”, former chairman of the Federal Reserve said: “In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.” Sadly, Mr. Greenspan has become one of those central planners whose career at the Fed appears to have influenced his views on gold.
Our history has never experienced such an expansion of money supply like in the past few years. The world has become rather anxious about the U.S. debt, the dollar’s loss of value as fiat currency, and the country’s inability to repay the debt to foreign creditors. As a result, emerging countries – Brazil, China, India, Russia – had already started to work-out a plan towards trading in currency other than the dollar. What that means for us here in the U.S. is that our dollar will soon not be in demand and with that our lifestyles will change. Monetary inflation is the end result of the Federal Reserve’s monetary expansion. It is a hidden tax on the poor and middle class with little impact on the wealthy, the bankers, and the big corporations. China is already experiencing the signs of the inflation triggered by the U.S. and the Federal Reserve’s expansion of dollar supply, and as such is taking a pro-active approach. Just a few weeks ago the Chinese government declared that it intends to strengthen the Yuan to the level of the world reserve currency.
Finally, as Texas Congressman, Ron Paul states in his book Pillars of Prosperity, that “it is our individual responsibility to live within our means. A society that lives within its means can only be accomplished by producing more, consuming less, saving, and investing wisely.” And with that the concept of sound money will not anymore be so hard to grasp.
While the rest of the world, including the U.S. and Ireland, were rushing to heap bank losses on the backs of their citizenries, Iceland was letting its banks fail when its losses became too large for taxpayers to bear. In fact, the losses were so gargantuan — roughly ten times the size of its entire $12 billion economy — that it could not possibly have covered the losses.
By the “too big to fail” hypothesis, the failure to bail out Icesave should have wrecked the economy. But, businesses have not closed shop, failing to meet payroll as credit dried up. And although international banks are retaliating, downgrading its credit rating, the New York Times editorial board reports that, somehow, with no bailouts, Iceland is “pulling through.”
By Matt Taibbi
Most Americans know about the official budget. What they don’t know is that there is another budget of roughly equal heft, traditionally maintained in complete secrecy. After the financial crash of 2008, it grew to monstrous dimensions, as the government attempted to unfreeze the credit markets by handing out trillions to banks and hedge funds. And thanks to a whole galaxy of obscure, acronym-laden bailout programs, it eventually rivaled the “official” budget in size — a huge roaring river of cash flowing out of the Federal Reserve to destinations neither chosen by the president nor reviewed by Congress, but instead handed out by fiat by unelected Fed officials using a seemingly nonsensical and apparently unknowable methodology.
Now, following an act of Congress that has forced the Fed to open its books from the bailout era, this unofficial budget is for the first time becoming at least partially a matter of public record. Staffers in the Senate and the House, whose queries about Fed spending have been rebuffed for nearly a century, are now poring over 21,000 transactions and discovering a host of outrages and lunacies in the “other” budget. It is as though someone sat down and made a list of every individual on earth who actually did not need emergency financial assistance from the United States government, and then handed them the keys to the public treasure. The Fed sent billions in bailout aid to banks in places like Mexico, Bahrain and Bavaria, billions more to a spate of Japanese car companies, more than $2 trillion in loans each to Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, and billions more to a string of lesser millionaires and billionaires with Cayman Islands addresses. “Our jaws are literally dropping as we’re reading this,” says Warren Gunnels, an aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “Every one of these transactions is outrageous.”
But if you want to get a true sense of what the “shadow budget” is all about, all you have to do is look closely at the taxpayer money handed over to a single company that goes by a seemingly innocuous name: Waterfall TALF Opportunity. At first glance, Waterfall’s haul doesn’t seem all that huge — just nine loans totaling some $220 million, made through a Fed bailout program. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot, considering that Goldman Sachs alone received roughly $800 billion in loans from the Fed. But upon closer inspection, Waterfall TALF Opportunity boasts a couple of interesting names among its chief investors: Christy Mack and Susan Karches.
Christy is the wife of John Mack, the chairman of Morgan Stanley. Susan is the widow of Peter Karches, a close friend of the Macks who served as president of Morgan Stanley’s investment-banking division. Neither woman appears to have any serious history in business, apart from a few philanthropic experiences. Yet the Federal Reserve handed them both low-interest loans of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars through a complicated bailout program that virtually guaranteed them millions in risk-free income.