Tuesday, August 7, 2012

To QE or not to QE

By Scott Silva

To QE or not to QE. That is the question. The markets waited for the Fed Chairman to announce it is time to jump in with another round of restorative stimulus, and had bid up nicely before Big Ben disappointed once again at the conclusion of last week’s FOMC meeting, stating,

“The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments and will provide additional accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability.” 

Hardly stimulating. The markets responded by selling off, but not as sharply as usual following a Bernanke punt. Traders held out hope that the ECB might do something bold. But alas, Mario Draghi seemed content to sit on the edge of the bed as well. Apparently, now is not the time for the central banks to begin a new bond-buying binge. The bankers must have insight other do not. Could it be that that they expect economic conditions to deteriorate further, or do they see signs of a sudden turnaround? Most analysts are pessimistic on the prospect that the Eurozone debt crisis can be contained. And many do not see the US recovery happening until a pro-growth president takes the oath of office.

The reason that the Fed policy has failed to stimulate the US economy is that monetary policy cannot stimulate demand. And despite what the Keynesians in charge of Washington believe, government spending does not create demand (except, or course for defense spending). Even if I accept the Keynesian approach, then also I must believe that the US is in JMK’s liquidity trap, that eerie nether region of extended ultra-low interest rates in which no amount of additional money produces any increase in output. Uncle Ben must secretly know that QE3 would ultimately fail, as did QE1 and QE2. And so too, his legacy as an effective Fed Chairman would never materialize.

One example of the failure of Washington central planning policy is the unemployment rate, which has now reached 15% (U-6 rate) for July. We have not had so many out-of-work citizens since the 1930’s. If defense funding sequestration occurs, there will be another 700,000 or so joining the jobless ranks. Despite what some may say, the private sector is not “doing fine”.

The US stock market seems to have discounted the feckless Fed, re-election campaign rhetoric, and the lousy July jobs number to closing above 13,000 last week and continuing its move up this week. The markets seem propelled by some special knowledge that there may be a bridge across the fiscal cliff. Could reason and responsibility succeed where rhetoric and redistribution has failed? We shall see. In the meantime, individuals must remain vigilant and protect themselves against attack by those who would steal their wealth and give it to others more “deserving”.  Да, Comrade!

Many know that buying and owning gold is an excellent way of protecting wealth. Gold has been a recognized store of value for thousands of years. Gold has intrinsic value. Gold maintains its value especially in uncertain economic times.  The price of gold increases when governments intervene in the credit markets and create more fiat currency than economies demand. This has been the case in the US and the EU for the last several years as central bankers have tripled the money supply through Quantitative Easing and other easy money measures.

Over the past five years, US central planners have distributed more than $4 Trillion of stimulus funding, raising the government share of GDP to 42.3% in 2009 from 35% in late 2007. The Federal spending binge includes add-ons to the agricultural and housing bills in 2007, the $600 per capita tax rebate in 2008, the TARP and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts, "Cash for Clunkers," additional mortgage relief subsidies and the president’s $860 billion stimulus plan that promised to deliver unemployment rates below 6% by now.

Since the beginning of the Federal stimulus spending spree, US GDP has fallen 61% and the price of gold has increased 101%.  The price of gold is likely to climb higher if Chairman Bernanke ignores his better angels and succumbs to another sip from the punchbowl.
And the price of gold is telling us now that odds are good that the Chairman will fall off the wagon, again, soon. Today, gold is trading above $1600/oz.

There are signs that gold will continue its upward trend for some time yet. Technical indicators for commodities in general are bullish.  The CRB index is in an upward swing, climbing to 12% to over 561 since June. Many noted commodity traders are adding to their long positions.  In particular, large speculators (the smart money) are accumulating gold. In the most recent Commitment of Traders (COT) report, Large Speculator bullish sentiment jumped 3 points to 79%. The large traders added 5,246 new long contracts and shed 7, 841 short positions on slightly lower open interest of 403,403 contracts. These professional traders are usually ahead of the herd. As subscribers to The Gold Speculator know, we are bullish on the precious metals.

What will happen to the price of gold if Helicopter Ben does not dump more bushels of greenbacks from the sky? Well, the price of gold will still rise. A major reason is the fact that money is seeping in to the economy from a massive store held as “excess reserves” by member banks of the Federal Reserve system. These funds are released into the economy when the banks lend or create new demand accounts. Normally, adding money into circulation stimulates economic activity. But we also know that increasing the supply of money when the demand for money is low, as is the case today at 1.5% GDP growth, leads to higher prices.

Of course, a new round of Fed bond-buying would be a massive dose; the last two rounds were woefully inadequate, according to the Keynesians in charge. “If only the stimulus were larger, say $1.5 Trillion or so, we would have come out of the woods by now.” Or, maybe $3 Trillion, as Paul Krugman has suggested.

Here’s an idea that might work. Take Paul Krugman’s $3Trillion number and rather than spending it on shovel-ready stimulus programs, spend it all on running the Federal government for a year, and declare a 1-year tax holiday for all US citizens and all US businesses. Now that would jump start the economy and end the jobless recession.

'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Responsible citizens and prudent investors protect themselves and their wealth against the ambitions of over-reaching government authority and debasement of the currency by owning gold. Gold is honest money. Investors from around the world benefit from timely market analysis on gold and silver and portfolio recommendations contained in The Gold Speculator investment newsletter, which is based on the principles of free markets, private property, sound money and Austrian School economics.

The question for you to consider is how are you going to protect yourself from the vagaries of the fiat money and economic uncertainty?  We publish The Gold Speculator to help people make better decisions about their money. Our Model Conservative Portfolio has outperformed the DJIA and the S&P 500 by more than 3:1 over the last several years. Follow @TheGoldSpec   Subscribe at our web site www.thegoldspeculatorllc.com  with credit card or PayPal ($300/yr) or by sending your check for $290 ($10 cash discount) The Gold Speculator, 614 Nashua St. #142 Milford, NH 03055

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