Friday, April 25, 2008

Central Bankers Gone Wild

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.

The New York Investing meetup has made a companion video to this blog entry. To see it, please go to:

In the hundred years before the Federal Reserve existed, aggregate inflation in the United States was approximately zero. This does not mean that there was never any inflation, inflation did indeed exist, but that the periods of inflation were offset by periods of deflation so that over a long period of time there were essentially no changes in prices. A new era for inflation began when the Fed was created in 1913. Except for the Great Depression in the 1930s, deflation essentially disappeared from the United States economy and there were only periods of lower or higher inflation. This continuing inflation resulted in a 1923% inflation (based on understated official figures) for the first 95 years of the Fed's existence. Conversely, it could be said that the U.S. dollar had lost 95% of its value during this time. And the remaining 5% seemed to be endangered as well.

The beginning of 2008 saw what was probably the biggest injection of liquidity into the U.S. monetary system by the Fed in history. There were two massive rate cuts separated by only 8 days. First there was a 75 basis point cut in the Funds Rate on January 22nd and this was followed by a 50 basis point cut on January 30th. The previous time the Fed had cut rates by 75 basis points was when the Funds rate was at 20%. The January cut took place from a 4.25% level and was the first inter-meeting cut since the 9/11 crisis. Only two months later the Fed would again cut the Funds rate by another 75 basis point, this time from the 3.00% level. Based on the starting levels, the cuts in the Funds Rate was enormous and took place in a very brief span of time.

The cut in the Funds Rate was by no means all the liquidity that the Fed was pumping into the system. The TAF (Term Auction Facility) auctions were raised from $20 billion to $30 billion each by January and would reach $50 billion for each auction in March. Two additional auction facilities were added to the TAF by March - the TSLF and the PDCF. The TSLF (Term Security Lending Facility) was set up to swap $200 billion of treasuries for illiquid securities being held by the banks. The PDCF (Primary Dealer Credit Facility) opened the Fed's credit operations to the 20 firms that bought treasuries directly from it. The Fed had only lent money to commercial banks during its entire history and the PDCF represented a big extension from its traditional scope of operations.

The impact of the Fed's liquidity boosts caused the money supply to explode. MZM (money with zero maturity and therefore available for immediate use) grew by an over 37% annual rate in the first quarter of 2008. This would have been OK if the economy was expanding by around 37% as well, but the economy was contracting instead. The difference between money supply and economic growth was more than enough to create a massive future inflation problem and possibly even hyperinflation. How much inflation would actually take place was something only time would tell.

NEXT: The Fed's Manipulation of the Stock Market

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

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1 comment:


And the bankers will only get more wild.