Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fed Statement Not so Bullish This Month

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

The U.S. Fed ended its two-day meeting today and left its zero interest rate policy in place. While this was unsurprising, the statement the Fed issued provides investors with some insight into its current thinking on the economy. It was much less bullish today than in April, but still contained a lot of spin and denial. 

In past articles on March 17th and April 29th, I have discussed how the Fed has waited two to three years after the end of a post war era recession before raising rates and that this would be happening again.  That would mean the earliest Fed rate rise would take place around July 2011. Nevertheless, at that time many economists at the biggest U.S. bond dealers were predicting that a rate rise was likely at the Fed meeting this June. Since then, an article by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco has appeared that suggested that the Fed should possibly wait until 2012 before raising rates (a three year period after the end of the recession). After reading that, the highly paid economists at the too big to fail institutions changed their tune and now almost all of them are predicting that the Fed won't raise rates until next year or even 2012. Your taxes were used for government bailout money to pay the salaries of many of these 'can't think for themselves' economists.

Almost all of these same economists are also parroting the Federal Reserve mantra that there can't be inflation while resource slack exists in the economy. One chief economist for a major bank recently stated, "inflation will hardly be a threat in an economy where massive labor-market slack is suppressing wages". Was he discussing the U.S. where unemployment is around 10% or Zimbabwe where it reached 94%? Of course, everyone would say it must be the U.S. because Zimbabwe had the second worse hyperinflation in world history. Truly massive resource slack always accompanies hyperinflation, but don't expect to get facts like that from the typical mainstream economist. They're paid to provide views that help their institutions make money, not to give the public the facts.

In its April meeting, buffoonish Ben and his stalwart crew of fed governors broke out the cigars to congratulate themselves on the great state of the U.S. economy.  The Fed statement released after the meeting was filled with glowing statements about the economy such as: "economic activity has continued to strengthen and the labor market is beginning to improve", "growth in household spending has picked up recently", "business spending on equipment and software has risen significantly", and "financial market conditions remain supportive of economic growth". There was one fly in the ointment however, " bank lending continues to contract". The Fed didn't seem too concerned. After all that only impacts the real economy, small and medium size businesses, and the guy on Main Street. Lack of lending can also cause recessions however. The Fed has apparently woken up to this unpleasant annoyance recently and behind the scenes reports indicate that it has been studying what to do in case the U.S. economy takes a second nosedive.

The Fed statement from the June meeting wasn't quite as optimistic after a number of recent economic releases indicated a weakening U.S. economy. Before the meeting ended today, it was revealed that new homes sales plunged 33% to record low level in May. The May employment report was unimpressive and indicated most new jobs were temporary and coming from the Census. Despite the obvious economic deterioration taking place, the Fed said in today's statement, "Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in April suggests that the economic recovery is proceeding and that the labor market is improving gradually".

The Fed continued to maintain that household spending was increasing, but admitted that it was constrained by high unemployment, lower housing wealth and tight credit (that certainly sounds like something that's going to be taking off in the near future). The Fed also stated that investment in commercial real estate continues to be weak and that "employers remain reluctant to hire". It acknowledged that "housing starts remain at a depressed level" (it would be hard to argue that something that was at the lowest point ever was anything but). The Fed further stated that financial conditions had become less supportive of economic growth and then blamed the Europeans. Moreover it reiterated once again that "bank lending has continued to contract in recent months". The Fed then ended its statement still upbeat about the future.  Maybe they just don't think recession is such a bad thing after all.

Disclosure: None

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.

No comments: