Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Excess Liquidity to Solve Excess Liquidity Problem

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.

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Almost everyone expects the U.S. Fed to lower interest rates by 50 basis points to 50 basis points today. Soon we will find out what will happen when there are no more rate cuts left as I asked rhetorically long ago in one of the New York Investing meetup's You Tube videos. We do know what has happened in the past because of excess liquidity with one bubble inflated after another because of fed policy. Each bubble leaves a trail of victims, many of whom should have known better. The list for the Madoff scandal keeps growing and the similarity to suspended belief that made Enron possible should be noted. While there were a few lone voices saying the emperor had no clothes, the top Wall Street players supported both and questioning from the media just didn't exist.

Hedge funds were one of the many beneficiaries of U.S. government easy money in the 1990s and 2000s. In 1990, there were only 610 of them in the U.S, by the end of 2006, there 9462. Assets under management went from $38.9 billion in 1990 to $1.9 trillion in June of 2008, when according to Bloomberg they peaked. As of November 24th (long before the Madoff scandal) U.S hedge funds returns were down 22% on the year - some protection from the Bear Market! A number of hedge funds themselves invested with Madoff and their clients were generally charged 20% of profits and a one and half percent maintenance fee to get them in on the biggest Ponzi scheme in American history. Just another of example of Wall Street being filled with people who know other people, but know little about investing.

While hedge funds still remain beyond the reach of the average investor (and in many cases this is fortunate), the other big beneficiary of the credit bubble, mutual funds, are also suffering. In the six months between May and October, U.S. mutual funds had a decline of $2.5 trillion in assets. Much, but not all of this, was the result of the declining stock market. Money seems to be flowing into money market funds which hit a record $3.7 trillion last week and have hit records highs for the last 11 consecutive weeks. There also seems to be some shift of funds toward ETFs. Despite the declining market, ETF assets have grown by $104 billion in the first nine months of 2008. Perhaps the American public is slowly realizing that the mutual fund industry is obsolete and does little except take a slice of their investing money in exchange for lower than average market returns?

The New York Investing meetup continually points out that there is no free lunch and much of our investing predictions are based on this simple premise which is why they are so accurate. Don't think we don't get a lot of flack because of this because we do. Most people want to believe in the too good to be true premise (and the Madoff scandal makes it clear that the rich and well-connected are just as susceptible to this as everyone else) and the U.S. government through its interest rate policy, the Treasury through its bailouts and the mass media that refuses to question, all keep the illusion going. Most people of course also don't make money with their investments either. Instead they wind up eating the free lunch and invariably go hungry later on.


Daryl Montgomery
Organizer,New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.