Bernanke: A Volcker In Greenspan's Clothing?

Discussion in 'Wall St. News' started by rubibond007, Mar 13, 2008.

  1. By Richard Lehmann, Forbes/Lehmann Income Securities Investor.

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke promised a new era of transparency for Fed policy. Until Tuesday, the markets have not liked what they have seen. Bernanke is accused of following, rather than leading, and of cutting rates too deeply, thereby inviting the onset of inflation. But is the chairman perhaps a bit smarter than he is truly transparent?

    To conduct Fed policy requires a degree of opacity, something Bernanke has learned by now. This is because there is too much capital in the world in the hands of "smart-money" managers ready to exaggerate or neutralize any overt policy moves by the Fed.

    And sometimes the Fed needs to do something that is not only controversial but also dangerous--e.g., cutting the discount rate down to 1% between 2001 and 2004. This action had unintended consequences, and the decision still bedevils investors today.

    Now, Ben, suppose the economy is facing recession, suffering a housing inventory glut and a mortgage reset and payment crisis. Meanwhile, inflation--the threat everyone thinks should be your No. 1 concern--is growing. What do you do?

    Special Offer: Cash is king in a shaky market. And if you're looking for safety and cash returns, Forbes/Lehmann Income Securities Investor's model portfolios offer relief. Its lowest-risk model portfolio, for example, has a year-to-date total return of 17.86%, including a 7% cash payout. Click here for details.

    Well, you can do what Alan Greenspan did in 2001--drop the discount rate to 1%. This would reduce the reset rates adjustable-rate subprime mortgage holders would have to pay. It would also reduce interest costs on their alternative--switching to a fixed-rate mortgage--provided they can still go that route.

    Bottom line, you would have fewer defaults, fewer repossession additions to the housing inventory, and increased confidence that the crisis was ending.

    What makes such a solution particularly elegant is that Wall Street and the media will scream that you don't understand what you're doing and that their "perceived" inflation is going to go through the roof.

    But you and I know that the most popular way "smart money" protects itself against inflation is buying a piece of beaten-down real estate like a house or condo. With about 2 million excess housing units congesting that market, there's a lot of inventory to be bought by this "smart money" before the housing market gets back to normal.

    Now, in order to pull off this hat trick, Ben, you have to look a little dumb--and so far you have been doing a fine job of this. Of course, nine months or so down the road, you also have to suddenly get smart and reverse course before "real" inflation does take hold.

    That's when we'll see if you can do what Greenspan could not do but Paul Volcker could. You may remember Volcker as the Fed chief in the early 1980s who drove a stake through the heart of inflation.

    For in life, its good to be smart, but it's even better to be lucky. I hope they're paying you some big bucks, Ben.

    Excerpted from a recent issue of Forbes/Lehmann Income Securities Investor. Click here for a free trial subscription to Forbes/Lehmann Income Securities Investor.
  2. Mishkin has said numerous times they're vigilant to raise rates on the first signs of economic stabilization. We'll see.
  3. Except that mortgage rates haven't gone down. They've gone up, for the most part. And that "provided they can still go that route (get a fixed rate)" is an awfully big assumption.

    No, I think Ben is not getting it because he doesn't want to get it. Not because he's secretly the 2nd coming of Volcker.
  4. Big deal my YTD is 60% by selling short, trading the ultrashort ETFs and buying a few small distressed stocks.
  5. Chood


    Good job (to Ivanovich) in being selected to help mod the forex forums, proof of intelligent life in those forums after all. (Of course, I used to hang out there, and once also opened an account with a forex retailer, so I'm as guilty as anyone. I've been trying to live it down ever since.)

  6. Mvic


    Was that just the "Brownie, your doing a heck of job" kiss of death that Bush just gave Bernanke?
  7. Our problems are already "baked into the cake"... Let's just hope it's all recognized so that Bush/GreenScam/Bernanke get properly blamed for the carnage.
  8. Thus far, I have only seen Bernanke as the anti-Volcker.
  9. Well, Bennie didn't lie. He promised he'd "inflate like a mofo"... and he has.. :mad:
    #10     Mar 14, 2008