by David Haggith, The Great Recession Blog: One of the kookiest moments last month came when Fed Chairwoman Yellen spoke about seeing no financial collapse in sight during our lifetimes
“Would I say there will never ever be another financial crisis? No. Probably that would be going a little too far, but I do think that we’re much safer, and I hope that it will not be in our lifetimes, and I don’t believe it will be.” (CNBC Play video for quote on next crisis.)
That certainly calls to mind the times when Chairman Ben Break-the-banky pontificated about there being no housing bubble and no recession in sight:
Yellen’s predecessor, Ben Bernanke, once famously called problems in the subprime mortgage market “contained,” a statement that would be proven wrong when the collapse of illiquid mortgage-backed securities cascaded through Wall Street and contributed to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Asked at a recent FOMC meeting about any possible problem with banks still being too big to fail, Yellen only said, “I’m not aware of anything concrete to react to.”
Nice to know she’s sound asleep while sugar plums dance in her head, bringing forth prophecies of good times for the rest of everyone’s foreseeable life … or, at least, the rest of hers.
When a Fed chair says something as audacious as there is no chance of another financial crisis in our lifetimes and when she sees no concrete situations of banks being too big to fail, even when the ones that were too big to fail last time are now twice as big, I think Titanic disaster. I think of all those nuclear experts who said, when three Fukushima reactors were blowing up and melting down, that they saw no chance of meltdown anywhere because these reactors were built too tough to melt down. As they spoke, you could hear the reactors exploding and see tops blowing off the buildings on videos playing behind them and watch people running around in protective suits, which made for quite a spectacular orchestration of expert feel-safe baloney.
“Nothing to see here, folks. Just minor gas venting, typical of reactors in a non-meltdown stage of something. Move along.”
I think minor gas venting is what we are hearing out of Yellen.
The inability of central bankers to see anything coming, even as it is bearing down on top of them, is classic. If recessions were trains, Yellen would be tied to the tracks right now, sipping tea. Her saucer would be rattling on the rails, but you wouldn’t be able to hear the rattle because of the rumbling of a locomotive in the background. Yellen would look up from her tea cup and smile at you like the nice grandmother that she is as the train runs over her.
You can also comfort yourself with this bit of superior Fed protection: All of Yellen’s major underling banks just passed the Fed’s most stringent stress test of their reserves. Because they passed gloriously, Yellen & Co told them they can now reduce their reserves, just as she is talking about strapping the economy with quantitative tightening. This move is for the important reason of freeing up something like $100 billion so they can pay themselves fat bonuses and share the wealth with their stockholders.
Whew! Glad the risk of being too big to fail is over. Maybe she meant she has just removed the risk for banksters and major share holders because they all get their bonuses now before the banking collapse.
If you wonder how blind Grandma Yellen is, look at her following statement, which offers a penetrating glance into the obvious:
Valuation pressures across a range of assets and several indicators of investor risk appetite have increased further since mid-February… (Zero Hedge)
Really? Just since mid-February? That was the first time you noticed that maybe, just maybe, the stock and bond markets were starting to look a little bubbly? These high valuations are just now pressuring the Fed to back off on stimulus because the market started to look a tad inflated in February?
She made this statement in order to justify her other statement ab out the Fed’s following choice to reduce stimulus even though it’s inflation target has not yet been met:
The Committee currently expects to begin implementing the balance sheet normalization program this year provided that the economy evolves broadly as anticipated…
So, the Fed has changed its metric from its mandate of manipulating inflation to setting policy based on curbing overly exuberant market valuations. Once again, we see evidence that the Fed is manipulating markets and setting a course correction on stimulus because of markets.
In other words, the Fed wants you to believe the bubblicious pricing of stocks was not something they rigged by “trying to create a wealth effect” in “front-running the stock market” as former Fed governor Richard Fisher said of the actions he was involved in, but that it is just a side-effect of their stimulus that now pressures them to back down. No, it was dangerous manipulation that is now pressuring the Fed to pursue a course of unwinding stimulus.
The Great Unwind is about to begin
The unwinding of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has been saved to the end because it is more problematic than either the end of quantitative wheezing or the end of low-interest policy, and it is being carried out be people who have never seen a recession coming in the past and who see no reason to believe we will ever again in our lifetimes see a financial crisis like the last one.
By “the Great Unwind,” I mean the reversal of QE (quantitative tightening). While investors are buoyed a little by Yellen’s dovish indication this week that the Fed will only raise interest one more time, the reversal of QE over time will be by far the Fed’s most difficult change toward normalization to navigate.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chairman Jamie Dimon said the unwinding of central bank bond-buying programs is an unprecedented challenge that may be more disruptive than people think. “We’ve never have had QE like this before, we’ve never had unwinding like this before,” Dimon said at a conference in Paris Tuesday. “Obviously that should say something to you about the risk that might mean, because we’ve never lived with it before…. We act like we know exactly how it’s going to happen and we don’t.” All the main buyers of sovereign debt over the last 10 years — financial institutions, central banks, foreign exchange managers — will become net sellers now, he said. (Newsmax)
A risk never experienced in the history of the world. Never is a long time. That risk, anticipated to begin at the end of summer, is far greater than the mere termination of QE that already took place or than the incremental rise in interest rates. This change actually sucks liquidity out of the market, versus slowing the expansion of liquidity.
Considering the Fed has pumped $4.5 trillion of liquidity into the economy to help “recover” from the Great Recession, there is potentially a lot of unwinding to now begin, and it starts in an economy that is limping along the ground, not in the kind of recovery the Fed anticipated rewinding from. Between the European Central Bank, the Bank of the Japan and the Fed, there is $14 trillion to unwind … or, at least, some large portion of that.