The Federal Reserve Seems Quite Serious About Tapering – So What Comes Next?

DollarsWill this be the year when the Fed’s quantitative easing program finally ends?  For a long time, many analysts were proclaiming that the Fed would never taper.  But then it started happening.  Then a lot of them started talking about how “the untaper” was right around the corner.  That hasn’t happened either.  It looks like that under Janet Yellen the Fed is quite determined to bring the quantitative easing program to a close by the end of this year.  Up until now, the financial markets have been slow to react because there has been a belief that the Fed would reverse course on tapering the moment that the U.S. economy started to slow down again.  But even though the U.S. middle class is in horrible shape, and even though there are lots of signs that we are heading into another recession, the Fed has continued tapering.

Of course it is important to note that the Fed is still absolutely flooding the financial system with money even after the announcement of more tapering on Wednesday.  When you are talking about $55,000,000,000 a month, you are talking about a massive amount of money.  So the Fed is not exactly being hawkish.

But when Yellen told the press that quantitative easing could end completely this fall and that the Fed could actually start raising interest rates about six months after that, it really spooked the markets.

The Dow was down 114 points on Wednesday, and the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries shot up to 2.77%.  The following is how CNBC described the reaction of the markets on Wednesday…

Despite a seemingly dovish tone, markets recoiled at remarks from Yellen, who said interest rate increases likely would start six months after the monthly bond-buying program ends. If the program winds down in the fall, that would put a rate hike in the spring of 2015, earlier than market expectations for the second half of the year.

Stocks tumbled as Yellen spoke at her initial post-meeting news conference, with the Dow industrials at one point sliding more than 200 points before shaving those losses nearly in half. Short-term interest rates rose appreciably, with the five-year note moving up 0.135 percentage points. The seven-year note tumbled more than one point in price.

But this is just the beginning.  When it finally starts sinking in, and investors finally start realizing that the Fed is 100% serious about ending the flow of easy money, that is when things will start getting really interesting.

Can the financial markets stand on their own without massive Fed intervention?

We shall see.  Even now there are lots of signs that a market crash could be coming up in the not too distant future.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Is ‘Dr. Copper’ Foreshadowing A Stock Market Crash Just Like It Did In 2008?

And what is going to happen to the market for U.S. Treasuries once the Fed stops gobbling them up?

Where is the demand going to come from?

In recent months, foreign demand for U.S. debt has really started to dry up.  Considering recent developments in Ukraine, it is quite certain that Russia will not be accumulating any more U.S. debt, and China has announced that it is “no longer in China’s favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves” and China actually dumped about 50 billion dollars of U.S. debt during the month of December alone.

Collectively, Russia and China account for about a quarter of all foreign-owned U.S. debt.  If you take them out of the equation, foreign demand for U.S. debt is not nearly as strong.

Will domestic sources be enough to pick up the slack?  Or will we see rates really start to rise once the Fed steps to the sidelines?

And of course rates on U.S. government debt should actually be much higher than they are right now.  It simply does not make sense to loan the U.S. government massive amounts of money at interest rates that are far below the real rate of inflation.

If free market forces are allowed to prevail, it is inevitable that interest rates on U.S. debt will go up substantially, and that will mean higher interest rates on mortgages, cars, and just about everything else.

Of course the central planners at the Federal Reserve could choose to reverse course at any time and start pumping again.  This is the kind of thing that can happen when you don’t have a true free market system.

The truth is that the Federal Reserve is at the very heart of the economic and financial problems of this country.  When the Fed intervenes and purposely distorts the operation of free markets, the Fed creates economic and financial bubbles which inevitably burst later on.  We saw this happen during the great financial crisis of 2008, and now it is happening again.

This is what happens when you allow an unelected, unaccountable group of central planners to have far more power over our economy than anyone else in our society does.

Most people don’t realize this, but the greatest period of economic growth in all of U.S. history was when there was no central bank.

We don’t need a Federal Reserve.  In fact, the performance of the Federal Reserve has been absolutely disastrous.

Since the Fed was created just over 100 years ago, the U.S. dollar has lost more than 96 percent of its value, and the size of the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger.  The Fed is at the very center of a debt-based financial system that has trapped us, our children and our grandchildren in an endless spiral of debt slavery.

And now we are on the verge of the greatest financial crisis that the United States has ever seen.  The economic and financial storm that is about to unfold is ultimately going to be even worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Things did not have to turn out this way.

Congress could have shut down the Federal Reserve long ago.

But our “leaders” never seriously considered doing such a thing, and the mainstream media kept telling all of us how much we desperately needed central planners to run our financial system.

Well, now those central planners have brought us to the brink of utter ruin, and yet only a small minority of Americans are calling for change.

Soon, we will all get to pay a great price for this foolishness.  A great financial storm is fast approaching, and it is going to be exceedingly painful.

Have Central Bankers Lost Control? Could The Bond Bubble Implode Even If There Is No Tapering?

Panic - Photo by Wes WashingtonAre the central banks of the world starting to lose control of the financial markets?  Could we be facing a situation where the bond bubble is going to inevitably implode no matter what the central bankers do?  For the past several years, the central bankers of the planet have been able to get markets to do exactly what they want them to do.  Stock markets have soared to record highs, bond yields have plunged to record lows and investors have literally hung on every word uttered by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other prominent central bankers.  In the United States, it has been remarkable what Bernanke has been able to accomplish.  The U.S. government has been indulging in an unprecedented debt binge, the Fed has been wildly printing money, and the real rate of inflation has been hovering around 8 to 10 percent, and yet Bernanke has somehow convinced investors to lend gigantic piles of money to the U.S. government for next to nothing.  But this irrational state of affairs is not going to last indefinitely.  At some point, investors are going to wake up and start demanding higher returns.  And we are already starting to see this happen in Japan.  Wild money printing has actually caused bond yields to go up.  What a concept!  And that is what should happen – when central banks recklessly print money it should cause investors to demand a higher return.  But if bond investors all over the globe start acting rationally, that is going to cause the largest bond bubble in the history of the planet to burst, and that will create utter devastation in the financial markets.

Central banks can manipulate the financial system in the short-term, but there is usually a tremendous price to pay for the distortions that are caused in the long-term.

In Bernanke’s case, all of this quantitative easing seemed to work well for a while.  The first round gave the financial system a nice boost, and so the Fed decided to do another.  The second round had less effect, but it still boosted stocks and caused bond yields to go down.  The third round was supposed to be the biggest of all, but it had even less of an effect than the second round.  If you doubt this, just check out the charts in this article.

Our financial system has become addicted to this financial “smack”.  But like any addict, the amount needed to get the same “buzz” just keeps increasing.  Unfortunately, the more money that the Fed prints, the more distorted our financial system becomes.

The only way that this is going to end is with a tremendous amount of pain.  There is no free lunch, and there are already signs that investors are starting to wake up to this fact.

As investors wake up, they are going to realize that this bond bubble is irrational and entirely unsustainable.  Once the race to the exits begins, it is not going to be pretty.  In fact, the are indications that the race to the exits has already begun

During the month of June, fixed income allocations fell to a four-year low, according to the American Association of Individual Investors, as major bond fund managers like Pimco experienced record withdrawals for the second quarter. That pullback sent places like emerging markets and high-yield bonds reeling—just as the Federal Reserve signaled plans to taper its easy-money policies within the coming years. Benchmark bond yields ticked up on that news, and in an unexpected twist, the stock market nosedived as well.

A lot of people out there have been floating the theory that the Fed will decide not to taper at all and that quantitative easing will continue at the same pace and therefore the markets will settle back down.

But what if they don’t settle back down?

Could the bond bubble implode even if there is no tapering?

That is what some are now suggesting.  For example, Detlev Schlichter is pointing to what has been happening in Japan as an indication that the paradigm has changed…

My conclusion is this: if market weakness is the result of concerns over an end to policy accommodation, then I don’t think markets have that much to fear. However, the largest sell-offs occurred in Japan, and in Japan there is not only no risk of policy tightening, there policy-makers are just at the beginning of the largest, most loudly advertised money-printing operation in history. Japanese government bonds and Japanese stocks are hardly nose-diving because they fear an end to QE. Have those who deal in these assets finally realized that they are sitting on gigantic bubbles and are they trying to exit before everybody else does? Have central bankers there lost control over markets?

After all, money printing must lead to higher inflation at some point. The combination in Japan of a gigantic pile of accumulated debt, high running budget deficits, an old and aging population, near-zero interest rates and the prospect of rising inflation (indeed, that is the official goal of Abenomics!) are a toxic mix for the bond market. It is absurd to assume that you can destroy your currency and dispossess your bond investors and at the same time expect them to reward you with low market yields. Rising yields, however, will derail Abenomics and the whole economy, for that matter.

The financial situation in Japan is actually very similar to the financial situation in the United States.  We both have “a gigantic pile of accumulated debt, high running budget deficits, an old and aging population, near-zero interest rates and the prospect of rising inflation”.  In both cases, rational investors should demand higher returns when the central bank fires up the printing presses.

And if interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds start to rise to rational levels, the U.S. government is going to have to pay more to borrow money, state and local governments are going to have to pay more to borrow money, junk bonds will crash, the market for home mortgages will shrivel up and economic activity in this country will slow down substantially.

Plus, as I am fond of reminding everyone, there is a 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives time bomb sitting out there that rapidly rising interest rates could set off.

So needless to say, the Federal Reserve is scared to death of what higher interest rates would mean.

But at this point, they may have lost control of the situation.

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