Monday, September 20, 2010

Is Too Much Liquidity Creating New Investment Bubbles?

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.

Near month silver futures closed at a 30-year high on Friday and December gold futures hit another all-time high. Traders are looking for a breakout on the S&P 500 today as stocks have continued to rally throughout September. Liquidity is the driving force behind the market's move and it is unlikely the Fed will saying anything in this week's meeting that will indicate a reduction in its current massive pumping operation.

Unfortunately, it's not just the Fed that has the money spigot open full-force; the operation is global in nature. This evidence of this is that a number of government bonds of various maturities hit all-time high prices this summer. In a free market, this would normally be interpreted as an indication of an extreme economic weakness and deflation. While there is indeed significant evidence of slowing economies in a number of countries, particularly in the United States, purchases of government bonds can be influenced by central banks and treasury departments and can even be done by them as well. This can create significant distortions in the market. What is going on is that a lot of the excess liquidity is being used to buy bonds that then pay for day to day government operations.

Inflation sensitive gold is a much better arbiter of whether or not there is inflation or deflation. The gold market is not completely free of attempts at government influence of course, although there is far less of it than in the government bond markets. Gold is not only saying there is inflation, but that inflation is escalating. The U.S. Federal Reserve says otherwise. Of course, Fed officials also said that sub-prime loans wouldn't cause any serious problems in the financial markets. Yeah, you can really trust what the Fed says.

Outside the U.S, the European Financial Stability Facility, also known as Euro-TARP, is adding significantly  to financial market liquidity. The facility is currently valued at 440 billion euros. All three major rating agencies just gave it a triple A credit rating. Yes, these are the same rating agencies that gave securitized sub-prime loans triple A credit ratings. Certainly there was no reason to think that loans to people without jobs, without income, without assets and histories of defaulting on their debts were unlikely to be paid back. The same level of intelligence and insight was probably applied to the recent Euro-TARP rating.

The cause of the global real estate bubble was too much liquidity. We all know the ugly collapse that followed. Government officials have tried to reinflate the bubble, but reinflating a just collapsed bubble is not possible. This became quite apparent this summer when housing sales in the United States fell off a cliff. Creating new bubbles in bonds, commodities and stocks is possible however. Excess liquidity could cause all three. The collapse that would follow would be much worse that the recent Credit Crisis. Why are central bankers taking this risk?  Quite frankly, it's because they are just not as smart as the people who work for the rating agencies.

Disclosure: No positions.

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. There is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.


FRF.Assoc said...

Excellent article as usual. I read your blog every day, and really appreciate the insight.

FRF.Assoc said...

If you haven't seen this blog about the IMF, it's interesting.