How Dumb Is the Fed?

by Bill Bonner, Casey Research: This morning, we are wondering: How dumb is the Fed?

The question was prompted by this comment by former Fed insider Chris Whalen at The Institutional Risk Analyst blog:

[O]ur message to the folks in Jackson Hole this week [at the annual central banker meeting there] is that the end of the Fed’s reckless experiment in social engineering via QE and near-zero interest rates will end in tears.

“Momentum” stocks like Tesla, to paraphrase our friend Dani Hughes on CNBC last week, will adjust and the mother of all rotations into bonds and defensive stocks will ensue. We must wonder aloud if Chair Yellen and her colleagues on the FOMC fully understand what they have done to the US equity markets. […]

Once the hopeful souls who’ve driven bellwethers such as Tesla and Amazon into the stratosphere realize that the debt driven game of stock repurchases really is over, then we’ll see a panic rotation back into fixed income and defensive stocks.

Bent and Distorted

If you believe the newspapers, the Fed has begun a “tightening cycle.” It is on course to raise its key interest rate, little by little, in quarter-point increments.

It must know that this is a perilous thing to do. After so much market manipulation over such a long period, prices all up and down the capital structure—from junk bonds to quality stocks and solid real estate—have been bent and distorted.

After all, that was the idea: drive up the price of stocks and bonds by driving down interest rates. People would be forced to spend or invest their money rather than save it. And higher financial asset prices would make the rich feel even richer.

Walking down the street, the dollars would overflow from their pockets like turnips rolling off the back of a produce truck.

They’d feel so flush, they’d buy, buy, buy… sending the plain people into a flurry of trucking, toting, and busting their humps to provide them with goods and services.

Then, after the rich were fully satiated (after all, how many martinis can the 1% drink?), they’d have to invest.

Cash would flow into money-losing startups like Tesla and Snapchat. Headline acquisitions, such as Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, would keep stock prices bubbling higher. And trillions of dollars in stock buybacks would make the rich even richer still!

Money Mirage But the feds could only work this miracle by buying bonds. And the feds didn’t have any money. What could they do?

No problem! They used their fake money, the post-1971 credit dollars—trillions of them… money they could create at will.

From the post-crash bottom in 2009 to today’s top, U.S. stocks and bonds registered a cumulative increase of about $21 trillion. And upon that mirage now rest the hopes, dreams, and contentment of millions of people all over the planet.

One has planned his retirement based on his gains over the last eight years. Another has taken out a loan against his stocks to fund his business. Still another—a major player on Wall Street—has a billion-dollar hedge fund portfolio… a leveraged bet on “low vol,” which depends on further support from the Fed.

And look at super investor Warren Buffett…

The latest headline news tells us his gifts to charities now top $27 billion. The money is to be used to fight illness and poverty worldwide. But the gifts came in the form of Berkshire stock—not cash. Imagine how the halt and the hungry will suffer if the stock goes down!

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