The Fed Detests Free Markets, Part 2

The Fed Detests Free Markets, Part 2

Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,

It wasn’t really the plan to make this a series, but it seems to have turned into one. Part 1 is here: The Fed Detests Free Markets. Part 3 will follow soon. And yeah, I did think perhaps I should have called this one “End The Fed” Is No Longer Enough. Because that’s the idea here. But what’s in a name?

Okay, let’s talk a bit more about finance again. Though I still think this requires caution, because the meaning of the terminology used in such conversations appears to have acquired ever more diverse meanings for different groups of people. Up to the point where you must ask: are we really still talking about the same thing here?

I’ve said multiple times before that there are no more markets really, or investors, because central banks have killed off the markets. There are still “contraptions” that look like them, like the real thing, but they’re fake. You can see this every time a Fed chief opens their mouth and every single person involved in the fake markets hangs on their lips.

They do that because that Fed head actually determines what anything will be worth tomorrow, not the markets, since the Fed buys everything up, and puts interest rates down so more people can buy grossly overpriced property and assets, and allows companies to buy their own shares so nobody knows what they’re worth anymore.

The Fed today is in the business of propping up zombies. And when I say the Fed, that also means the ECB and BOJ, western central banks. I won’t get into the PBOC here, but they’re not far behind.

Recently, Christine Lagarde, the new ECB head, said the most incredible thing (at least to my ears, I guess not to hers):

We should be happier to have a job than to have our savings protected … I think that it is in this spirit that monetary policy has been decided by my predecessors and I think they made quite a beneficial choice.

Who on earth ever claimed jobs vs savings is some necessary or inevitable “choice”? Why should it be? If this were true, isn’t that a sign that something is terribly wrong? That you can have a job, but you can’t save anything? And aren’t the central banks to blame for that then?

The entire system has been built for decades around the notion that people save, either to purchase big items, or for their old age, and that people put money into their pension systems. And now central banks come along and in no time destroy what has been valid for all these years. And they never even warned about it.

Anyway, after Lagarde’s remarks, I guess the Fed’s Jay Powell felt he couldn’t be left behind and said:

US central bankers see a “sustained expansion” ahead for the country’s economy, with the full impact of recent interest rate cuts still to be felt and low unemployment boosting household spending, Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell said on Wednesday in remarks that brushed aside any worries of a looming slowdown.

“The baseline outlook remains favorable,” and the current level of interest rates “appropriate,” Mr Powell said in remarks prepared for delivery to the joint economic committee of congress, a panel that includes some members from the House of Representatives and Senate.

His comments tracked closely to those in his news conference last month after the US central bank cut rates for the third time this year and signaled it was likely done reducing borrowing costs absent a significant change in the economic outlook. Despite “noteworthy risks” including slowing global growth and fallout from the US-China trade war, “my colleagues and I see a sustained expansion of economic activity … as most likely,” Mr Powell said in his prepared remarks for the hearing.

Former Goldman and Bear Stearns banker, and friend of the Automatic Earth, Nomi Prins, tweeted yesterday: “Tuesday, the Fed added $95 billion in liquidity to financial markets. Today, Fed’s vice chair told Congress, “The Board’s latest [review] confirms the current health of the banking system. It depicts a stable, healthy, and resilient banking sector…” The Fed’s official for supervision and regulation told Congress, “The Board’s latest Supervision and Regulation Report… describes steady improvements in safety and soundness, with a gradual decline in outstanding supervisory actions at both the largest & smallest organizations..”

“The baseline outlook remains favorable,” Powell said. That must be why they have been pulling out all the stops and invented new ones, for a decade+. Bernanke, Yellen, the lot of them, all because the baseline has remained so favorable. Why would anyone want to listen to this guy, who so obviously dabbles in complete nonsense? Well, because he’s the one giving the money away.

I think I can tell Mr. Powell what the “full impact of recent interest rate cuts” will be, what it will feel like, and it won’t be anywhere near what he pretends it will be. I must think he knows that too, or he’s an utter fool, and I don’t think he is. He’s just doing a job, while he’s worth $100 million, and that job is very different from how it’s presented to the public.

I’ll tell you about that full impact in part 3 of this Fed essay, which I left on the shelf for a long time because I thought people would declare me nuts, but which now, with increasing chatter of a next recession, maybe can be exposed to daylight. It’s about how grave the damage is that central banks have inflicted on their economies, something I never see discussed. Powell and Draghi/Lagarde and Kuroda are not just the ones giving the money away, they’re also taking it away, just not from the same people. And that latter part is much more important to societies and economies.

A third quote, just to complete the “circle”, deals with BOJ chief Kuroda; it’s from a June 2019 Reuters article entitled How Japan Turned Against Its ‘Bazooka’-Wielding Central Bank Chief:

The direction taken by the BOJ could determine whether Japan’s banking sector avoids a hard landing and whether Abe or his successor will lean on the central bank to take the most extreme step remaining: printing money for the explicit purpose of financing a national debt that is now more than twice the size of Japan’s economy. That could risk a costly downgrade by credit rating agencies for Japan, and, by extension, Japanese corporate borrowers.

The spurning of Kuroda-nomics also has political implications. It is part of a broader public dissatisfaction with what has been labeled “Abenomics” – the prime minister’s plan to reflate the economy out of prolonged stagnation through a combination of aggressive monetary easing, bold fiscal spending and fundamental structural reforms in the economy.

“Kuroda’s radical stimulus kept interest rates low, allowing politicians to delay reforms to get Japan’s fiscal house in order,” said Koichi Haji, executive research fellow at NLI Research Institute. “The foot-dragging could cost Japan dearly. The options left for the BOJ all seem extreme.”

Options left for the BOJ will be even more extreme because Japan’s Birth Rate Has Hit Its Lowest Level Since Records Began In 1899. As a Dutch comment on that report said: “by 2050 there will be one working Japanese for every child or pensioner [..] Japan adopted a law in April designed to make it easier for foreigners to work in Japan. The goal was to attract 350,000 foreign workers. 8 months later, just 400 had arrived”.

And just this week we read that Japan is preparing another $120-$230 stimulus package. Extreme has become normal in no time. Only, the ratings agencies could lower their rating for Japan, because of this. Then again, why should they do it only for Japan? Everyone’s in “extreme” territory, or as Ben Bernanke called it in 2008, “uncharted territory”. Same difference.

But Lagarde is right on one thing: it is “the monetary policy decided by her predecessors” that has destroyed savings -and pensions-. How on earth she can call that “beneficial” is very hard to grasp. What is the goal, what is all these central bankers’ goal? That in the end nobody has any savings or pensions anymore, and they all must go into debt or perish? That would create entire societies made up of zombies. And that’s “policy”?

It’s policy to spin a fantasy tale so people like Jay Powell can claim that “the baseline outlook remains favorable” and “sustained expansion” lies ahead for the economy, and it’s policy to pay for that fantasy with money that belongs to savers and pensioners, and that you can then hand out to a bunch of zombie “investors”. That’s policy.

The role of today’s central bankers is possible only because the public are made to think these are very smart people that have the interest of Joe Blow at heart, and because they have “unlimited resources” to make stocks and bonds and the housing market look good. But what would happen if Joe Blow knew what is going on?

The Fed is now considering “policy” that “makes up for lost inflation”. No, stop laughing, I’m serious. Their extreme policies in uncharted territory have failed so dismally, they’ve obviously not been extreme enough.

Once they’ve gone down the path of extreme stimulus (not that they call it that), there’s no way back. Because they’ve just destroyed the markets, and then they go: let’s see how the markets react to that. Well, they don’t. They’re dead. You killed them. There are parties left who love feeding off of your free money teats, but they’re not the markets or even market participants. They’re rich socialists. But they’re also the only ones the Fed cares about.

Still, a central bank that doesn’t have the population at large, at the center of its policies, is a scourge on a society and/or country. And it should be abolished. But in the case of the Fed, ECB and BOJ, it is probably already too late for that. They have done their damage. “End The Fed” is no longer enough. Societies need to develop emergency measures to counter the damage done, or face untold misery, unrest and eventually, revolution.

People don’t see this, because these central banks -temporarily- taper over the disaster they’ve wrought with their “policies”. Time for the media to step in? No, it’s too late for that too, and besides, what media? They’ve been silent all along, why would they speak up now?

More in part 3.

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Tyler Durden

Fri, 12/06/2019 – 20:25

November Heavy Duty Truck Orders Resume Collapse, Down 39% To Weakest Since 2015

November Heavy Duty Truck Orders Resume Collapse, Down 39% To Weakest Since 2015

The collapse in heavy duty trucking is getting tougher to blame on difficult YOY comps and is more and more looking like the symptom of a real manufacturing recession in the U.S.

Class 8 orders against collapsed in November, culminating a dismal year that some thought had seen a reprive with October’s improved bookings. But new data from FreightWaves shows that the collapse has continued its trend, indicating that the sluggish economy is to blame for lackluster replacement demand. 

Orders totaled 17,300 units for the month, which marks the slowest November since 2015 and a 39% collapse from November 2018. The slowdown in orders is prompting layoffs of hundreds of production workers by companies like Daimler Trucks North America, Volvo Trucks North America, Paccar Inc. and Navistar International Corp.

Other names in the Class 8 supply chain are also dealing with the negative effects. For instance, engine manufacturer Cummins Inc. is “laying off 2,000 white-collar employees globally in the first quarter of 2020”.

Meanwhile, November used to be a month when fleets would be busy placing orders for the upcoming year. After October’s slight tick up in orders, many analysts thought November could follow suit. That didn’t happen, and sequentially November’s order book was down 21% from October. 

Tim DeNoyer, ACT Research vice president and senior analyst said: “The freight market downturn worsened in the past month, and uncertainty surrounding trade and tariffs continue to weigh on truck buyers’ psyches.” 

Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles commented: “The stalling of freight growth is causing fleets to exercise caution in placing orders for 2020. There will still be plenty of freight to haul, so we expect fleets will continue to be profitable and to replace older equipment. However, there won’t be a need for much additional equipment on the roads.”

“The industry thrives on stability, but we are now on a rocky road,” Ake concluded.

The rolling 12-month average for Class 8 orders is now 180,000 units and the industry backlog has collapsed to less than half of what it was in December 2018.

Tyler Durden

Fri, 12/06/2019 – 20:05

The Moral Case For Decoupling From China

The Moral Case For Decoupling From China

Authored by David Archibald via,

One of the first people to see that the infatuation with China would end in tears was Robert Kaplan. In 2005 he wrote an article entitled “How We Would Fight China”, though he didn’t say when or why we will be doing that fighting, or even the how as per the title.

Well the tears are flowing now as the relationship is mostly over. China’s share of world exports peaked just shy of 15% in 2015 and is now contracting. China’s share of world GDP is also about 15% and that too will contract.

In Carroll Quigley’s ‘Tragedy and Hope’ first published in 1966, he wrote that the Chinese Communist regime in the first years after its founding was “insanely aggressive.” The Chicoms reverted to type about ten years ago and went back to ‘snarl diplomacy.’  Only being poor had kept them from trying to impose their will on others.

The corporate retreat from China is proceeding as fast as factory production can be relocated. But even if China wasn’t in breach of its WTO obligations to have a free market economy and a convertible currency, didn’t steal intellectual property, and wasn’t bullying its neighbours, there is another reason why we should completely decouple from China and it is a reason that is overarching and critical to our self-worth as a civilisation.

Dr Arthur Waldron, now a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has been studying China for over 50 years. He married a Chinese lady so his views are not those of an inherent Sinophobe. In an online interview he provides interesting detail on the mistakes made in our relationship with China, starting with Nixon.

Dr Waldron starts the interview by reminding us that:

China is the most evil regime the world has seen since the Third Reich, setting aside the Soviet Union.

The whole 68-minute interview is interesting but where he is a thought leader is in his parable of the delicatessen, transcribed below:

Suppose you lived on 86th st and at the local delicatessen with fine produce, at the front of the shop were all these goodies.

But if you went to the very back of the shop there were sort of vats which were kept just above freezing which had freshly harvested kidneys and livers and hearts and all the things which are used at this moment. …

People are being killed so their organs can be used for transplants. Many of which go to the very elderly Chinese leadership or their children. The son of one of the recent leaders of China has had cancer and he has had many organs replaced.

Well, what would you say about this shop. Would you say, well, I think I’ll just shop in the front of the shop and I won’t pay any attention to the fact that there are all these living human organs, God knows where they came from, that are in the back.

What you would say is ‘What the heck is this shop doing in America?’

You can’t decouple these things. This is one integral system.

And that is one of the reasons we have to quarantine China economically.

A rationalisation for saying ‘Well yes it’s true that there is some question with what Hitler is doing with the gypsies and the Jews but Leica still makes a hell of a good camera.”

In the late 1930s when it was quite evident that Hitler was persecuting and killing minorities, would you have bought any German goods, knowing that in doing so you were an enabler of that evil regime? It is no different today. Every Chinese plastic toy or Christmas decoration plucked off the shelves at Walmart contributes to a future U.S. combat death, but beyond that there are also metaphorical vats of human organs at the back of the Walmart store that the buyer is enabling.

Thankfully killing people for their organs is repugnant to us and that needs to continue if we are to remain a good and kind civilisation. But trading with, speaking with, interacting with people who kill people for their organs debases us.

If we continue trading with such people that makes us morally complicit in their barbarism. For our souls, for our self-respect at least, we must stop trading with such people, and training them in our universities, and letting them into the country.

Dr Waldron’s view is that without our trade the Chinese polity will disintegrate; their state-owned enterprises aren’t enough to sustain their economy. The Chinese people’s best chance of liberation is if we nudge things in that direction.

Thank-you Dr Waldron for your insights.

*  *  *

David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare.

Tyler Durden

Fri, 12/06/2019 – 19:45

New Data Reveals Which College Grads Earn Most And Which Carry The Most Debt

New Data Reveals Which College Grads Earn Most And Which Carry The Most Debt

Prospective college students now have official government data they can use to gauge which colleges and which major programs will make the most fiscal sense. The Trump administration released the data last week, which offers the nation’s most granular look into the finances of recent college graduates yet. 

By looking at the median income versus the median debt of graduates from different schools and different levels of degrees, the data finally offers a tangible risk/reward for students considering a range of colleges and degrees. And some of the examples of the data are stunning, according to the Wall Street Journal

For example, Bismarck State College can now say its business majors earned a median of $100,500 one year after graduating – higher than many elite business schools. And highlighting the amount of debt that students left college with also becomes and important part of the equation. Dentists leaving NYU’s graduate program, for example, left school with a median of $387,660 in debt while earning just $69,600. 

The data shows that graduates typically earned more in their first year than what they borrowed in total, but 15% of programs resulted in graduates carrying a debt load greater than their income. In 2% of instances, graduates owed more than twice their annual salaries. 

The data was uploaded to a consumer website that was initially created by the Obama administration called the “College Scorecard”. It offers data on more than 36,000 programs at about 4,400 colleges. The data allows consumers to compare programs and “defies years of efforts by the higher-education lobby to keep much of this information hidden.”

For profit colleges may not like some of the comparisons. Computer engineering students leaving DeVry University-Illinois, for example, owed $53,391 at graduation while earning just $37,800. Meanwhile, students at Wichita State in Kansas leave the same program with just $31,000 in debt while earning $61,800.

The effort is part of a Trump administration ethos that making the college landscape a more competitive free market will help bring tuition and student debt down. The administration has been working with companies like Google to find ways to make the data more accessible to families. And to protect , the government isn’t introducing data on programs with limited numbers of students. 

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement: “The best way to attack the ever-rising cost of college is to drive real transparency.”

The debt and earnings data only represents students who got federal financial aid, which can be a small number at some universities. The figures also exclude debt take on by parents on behalf of their children, which has been a growing way for parents to help shoulder the load of student debt for their kids. 

The data reflects common sense at some points. Science and engineering majors at top schools earned the most. MIT math majors earned a median of $120,300 after graduating while borrowing just $8,219. Those who earned master’s degrees at USC for drama and theater arts shouldered $100,796 in debt while earning just $30,800 their first year out. 

And the data is surprising elsewhere. Ivy League schools don’t always see the top salaries. Columbia University rhetoric and writing graduates earned just $19,700 their first year out of school, while taking on $28,556 in debt. 

Some students have simply struggled to find work in their field after graduating. 22 year old Johnna Ueltschi borrowed about $32,000 to study psychology and criminal justice at UCF in Orlando. She says she has struggled to find a job and now works as a hostess making $10/hour. 

“I was a good student, I graduated on time, I did everything that I was conventionally supposed to do. Finding a job is a lot harder than they lead it on to be when you’re in school.”

You can explore all of the data using the Wall Street Journal’s online search tool here

Tyler Durden

Fri, 12/06/2019 – 19:25


Things You See At The Top: Woman Calls Pile Of Crap “Artwork”, Successfully Sells It For $225,000

Things You See At The Top: Woman Calls Pile Of Crap “Artwork”, Successfully Sells It For $225,000

Artist Portia Munson is known for chaotic looking pieces of “art” which often times features thousands of pieces of ephemera per piece. Ephemera comes from the Latin word for “things you can find at a yard sale or tucked away in your grandparents garage“. 

Case in point is her work “The Garden”, which she made in 1996 and contains more than 1500 separate objects from plastic flowers to stuffed animals, according to Bloomberg. She calls the piece a “meditation on feminism and climate change”. 

Because, of course…

As you can see from the photo, the piece looks more like something you’d see on a Beatles album cover or inside of Cheech and Chong’s Volkswagen bus.

Wendy Olsoff, owner of New York Gallery P.P.O.W., thought it may be a good idea to feature the art at the Meridians section of Art Basel Miami Beach in hopes that she could sell it. 

Olsoff said: “We thought it would be fantastic. It talks a lot about the environment, which is obviously in dire straits in Florida, and it also taps into feminism and other topics that we always explore in our program.”

Munson says the objects are arranged in a specific manner that minds the “idea of artificial beauty, consumerism, and cultural ideas around the feminine aspects of nature.”

Olsoff hoped to sell the piece and, after shelling out $60,000 to reassemble, fireproof and maintain the pile of crap, she slapped a $225,000 price tag on it.

Olsoff said: “Maybe if we had done a little homework first and figured out how much it would cost [to install], [we] might not have been so hasty. We didn’t really realize it.”

It was last on display two years ago and since then, the thousands of items for the piece had been sitting in storage at Munson’s home, collecting dust. Every object had to be catalogued and restored. 

“When you open a box of plastic after three or five years, there’s going to be pieces that are decaying and disgusting,” Olsoff said.

Then, every piece of fabric had to be made fire resistant to meet fire safety guidelines. 

Trey Hollis, the gallery’s director of art fairs, traveled to Munson’s house upstate, brought everything to an open field, strung up the objects on a clothesline, put on a mask, and sprayed everything with fire-retardant coating. 

Olsoff did little outreach to existing collectors. “We do normal previews. But this is a little different,” she said. 

But lo and behold, the piece was only on display for six minutes before Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, the husband and wife founders of the 21c Museum Hotel, took interest in it. It was a match made in liberal heaven. Wilson, standing in the piece, seemed to fit right in with it:

Steve Wilson said: “We own a piece by Munson already, which we bought 12 years ago. And we just bought this piece.”

They settled at a price under the $225,000 asking price – a small price to pay for a new safe zone where Steve can also meditate on feminism and climate change. 

“It’s a done deal. It’s a spectacular piece— one of those things that takes my breath away.”

If you say so, Steve. 

Tyler Durden

Fri, 12/06/2019 – 18:45

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