Forward Guidance? – Nonsense! Central bankers have no choice.

"Pioneer of guidance" Mark Carney

After two decades of serial bubble-blowing, the world’s central bankers have maneuvered themselves into a corner. They created a monster in the form of an unbalanced global economy and a bloated financial system, laden with debt, addicted to cheap money, and in need of constantly rising asset prices. Now the monster is in charge and the central bankers dare not stop feeding it. The US Fed did, of course, make some noises to the effect that the flow of cheap money may at some point slow and then even stop. How credible these … [Read more...]

Bubble trouble: Is there an end to endless quantitative easing?

Ben Bernanke

The publication, earlier this week, of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee minutes of January 29-30 seemed to have a similar effect on equity markets as a call from room service to a Las Vegas hotel suite, informing the partying high-rollers that the hotel might be running out of Cristal Champagne.  Around the world, stocks sold off, and so did gold. Here is the sentence that caused such consternation: “However, many participants also expressed some concerns about potential costs and risks arising from … [Read more...]

Stimulus, to infinity and beyond

Ben Bernanke

There was a beautiful symmetry to last week's policy announcement by the Fed. Precisely a week after the ECB had pledged its commitment to unlimited purchases of Euro Zone government bonds, the Fed declared that its new round of debt monetization - 'quantitative easing' or QE3 - would be open-ended. Unlimited, open-ended. The concept of stimulus has certainly evolved since the crisis started. This should give us reason to pause. 'Unlimited' is not a word that is used much in economics or in business-life. The only thing … [Read more...]

More QE is on the way – The central banks are digging themselves a deeper hole

federal reserve

Dear readers, first of all, apologies seem in order. An unusual gap between blog posts has appeared on the Schlichter Files this summer. The reason is that I was travelling with my family in East Africa through most of August, enjoying the spectacular landscapes and the fascinating wildlife there, and meeting some very interesting people. Although, admittedly, I travelled in considerable comfort, and East Africa offers today reasonably good internet connections, often even in fairly remote areas, I decided not to read any … [Read more...]

Is gold in a bubble?

gold

To answer this question is not straightforward. As the gold-sceptics keep reminding us, gold pays no coupon and no dividend, it does not offer a running yield, so traditional measures of 'fair value' do not apply. But gold is money, and just as the paper ticket in your wallet does not pay interest, neither does gold. Gold is a monetary asset that has functioned as a medium of exchange and a store of value for thousands of years, around the world and in almost all societies and cultures. Many modern economists believe that … [Read more...]

Why gold is my favourite asset

1 kilo gold bar

I hate to give personal investment advice. So please do me a favour and do not treat the following as investment advice. I am expressing my personal opinion here. I do so with honesty and conviction, without a personal agenda - I am not trying to sell you anything - but with some good arguments, hopefully. However, it is still an opinion. Nobody knows what the future will bring. I don't know what will happen to the gold price in the next week, the next month or for the rest of this year. I don't even know what 2013 will … [Read more...]

Please don’t call this capitalism!

Eurotower in Frankfurt

Surprise, surprise, the Euro Zone debt crisis is back. Or was it never gone? As yields on Spanish and Italian government bonds are heading higher once again, I am reminded of the old saying, you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Not even with a trillion euros. I previously described the relationship between banks and states as that of two drowning sailors who desperately cling to one another, and I still think it is an apt description of the charade that is being orchestrated in Europe and that is already … [Read more...]

Does the ‘recovery’ matter?

green shoots among coins

I was thinking of starting this blog with a cynical comment along the lines of, last week equity markets came off, I think we need another EUR1 trillion from the ECB! - Okay, maybe it wasn't the greatest joke but you get the idea. But then the Wall Street Journal beat me to it, and they weren't even trying to be funny. In an article on weaker data in the Euro Zone one could find this remark: "The unexpected drop in the purchasing managers' index survey suggests more stimulus from the European Central Bank through … [Read more...]

The deflation delusion

Dollar note on a hook

Years ago a friend of mine in New York told me about his massively overweight neighbour who took to wearing a black t-shirt with "I beat anorexia" printed on it. I think that is how our central bankers look at the wonderful job they are doing. Since the last link to gold was severed in August 1971, the dollar has lost 82 percent of its purchasing power and the global economy is more geared than ever and now in the death throes of a four-decade leveraging bonanza but our central bankers proudly tell us, hey, at least we beat … [Read more...]

ECB money injection not a reason for optimism

Euro banknotes

Are you feeling optimistic yet? Are you confident that policy-makers have things under control? - If so, you must believe that we can solve any economic problem by throwing freshly printed money at it. Even problems that are evidently the result of previous periods of 'easy money'- such as overstretched and weak banks. The ECB this week allotted another EUR529.5 billion of new money to Europe's banks. The banks get these funds for three years at 1 percent interest. That this is a gigantic subsidy for one specific industry … [Read more...]