What came 1st, chicken or egg? Bernanke -vs- U.S. Consumer

Discussion in 'Wall St. News' started by ByLoSellHi, Oct 19, 2009.

  1. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601039&sid=aTLvGA2qdZ9k

    Bernanke Frets Over Sherlock Holmes’s Next Stop: Caroline Baum
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    Commentary by Caroline Baum

    Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) --
    Federal Reserve policy makers like to explain the world in terms of feedback loops, except those of their own making.

    Last year, a negative feedback loop threatened to deepen the financial crisis as a weak economy and a teetering banking system led to layoffs and production cutbacks, which led to even bigger declines in output and employment.

    Last month, officials heralded the onset of a “positive feedback loop,” wherein better financial conditions and stronger growth in employment and output lead to a stronger stock market and improved financial conditions, according to minutes from the Fed’s Sept. 22-23 meeting.

    At some point, of course, the loop gets broken. Otherwise, the economy would head in one direction, up or down, forever.

    Where is the discussion of the Fed’s inflation expectations feedback loop, which yields no feedback and less information?

    The Fed’s treatment of inflation expectations in the minutes released last week still has my head spinning. See if you can follow the thread.

    -- Inflation expectations are a key determinant of inflation. (This is an oath central bankers must swear to before they’re taught the secret handshake and admitted into the club.)

    -- The size of the Fed’s balance sheet affects inflation expectations.

    -- Therefore, to keep inflation expectations “well anchored,” the Fed must communicate that it has both the tools and the willingness (means and motive) to begin withdrawing monetary accommodation at an appropriate time and pace to prevent an increase in inflation.

    ‘Holmes-Moriarty Problem’

    This sets up an interesting “Holmes-Moriarty Problem,” or the pitfalls of interdependent decision-making.

    In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, “The Final Problem,” Sherlock Holmes leaves London by train with his arch-enemy, Professor James Moriarty, in hot pursuit. Holmes has to decide at which station to get off. Moriarty is trying to figure out where Holmes will get off.

    For our purposes, the outcome is less important than the process. It’s a classic case of I think that you think that I think that you think, which ends up helping neither party.

    What’s the application to the Fed?

    The public is looking at the Fed to formulate its expectations about inflation. The Fed is the sole proprietor of the nation’s printing press, so inflation expectations start and end with the Fed.

    The Fed is looking at the public’s expectations for guidance as to what to do to re-shape those expectations, if necessary, and inflation itself.

    Expectations Loop-de-Loop

    If I have this right, we’re waiting for the Fed to do or say something to help us decide whether we should hoard cash (because we expect the dollar to buy more tomorrow if prices are falling) or buy and hoard hard goods (if we expect inflation to diminish the dollar’s purchasing power).

    The Fed, in turn, is waiting for us to do something so it can decide what to do: either raise the volume on its anti- inflation rhetoric with talk of exit strategies and price stability; or talk softly to allay fears of premature rate increases to keep market rates from rising.

    This is hard enough for your average MBA graduate on Wall Street to understand. And the Fed expects the average Joe on the auto-assembly or unemployment line to have a well-formulated view of inflation expectations?

    It’s not that people aren’t rational; they are. It’s that they lack perfect information.

    Just Ask Randa

    Two years ago, fed up with the hijacking of the economics profession by rational expectations theory, I did an informal street survey on inflation expectations. The most popular answer to a question on the current rate of inflation was “no clue.” That was followed by “no idea” in response to a question on expectations for inflation over the next 12 months.

    Of the 40 people I surveyed, the most astute prognosticator turned out to be Randa, the psychic, whose services a survey participant was touting. In March 2007, Randa told me she was looking for a “very dramatic fall” in the stock market in late September, early October. I knew I should have listened to Randa.

    If I read the minutes and other Fed communications correctly, policy makers are relying on us to tell them what to do, we’re relying on them for direction, and we’re locked in this no-way-out feedback loop that provides no useful information for either party.

    Real Money

    Let’s say, for argument’s sake, the Fed communicated its intent to create inflation to ease the federal government’s huge debt burden. The public would go out and buy goods in response, reducing its cash balances.

    What happens if the Fed doesn’t follow through on its promise? If the broad money supply doesn’t increase -- reserves are the raw material, not the finished product -- the public’s buying behavior will result in a one-time increase in the price level. When we discover prices aren’t rising, we dump our goods, which sends the price level back down.

    For the record, M2 has shown no growth in the last six months.

    Now, it’s entirely possible I’m missing something here. And I’ll grant that inflation expectations can contribute to, or quicken, inflation.

    To say that you and I have the ability to create inflation on our own flies in the face of monetary theory. If we did have a set of keys to the printing press, the Fed would have more than just inflation expectations to funnel through its feedback loop.

    Last Updated: October 18, 2009 21:00 EDT
     
  2. Can we have deflation with rising energy costs?
     
  3. Yes.

    M1 has doubled.

    M3 is shrinking.

    Total money supply is the monetary base + commercial loans.

    Commercial loans (to consumers and business) have faltered. Which explains deflation.
     
  4. And M2 is flat.
     
  5. Expectations? Yea, okay.

    Inflation is money supply aggregates.

    Inflation manifests itself in the consumer price index.

    That's it. There's no second-guessing mind game the Fed plays to fool itself not to raise.

    That article just regurgitates a lot of Fed propaganda. The FED wants us to think they use some complicated academic model to decipher cues to inflation. Why? So when the time comes to raise, like NOW, they can point to their geeks bearing calculators and say we don't understand. Why? To save the banks, create another Bubble (for the banks), and trash the Dollar to shirk Government entitlements. All without ever owning up to it!

    The market doesn't look to what the Fed says. It looks at what it DOES. Action speak louder than words.

    The FED has been a notorious dove on inflation for the past 20 years, constantly redefining CPI and its attendant deflators, to underreport inflation.

    Look at Bernacke pre-crash. Housing bubble? Nope. Overbought market? No way! High inflation? No at all.

    Its all bullsh^t.
     
  6. That's right. People are holding cash and paying down debt.

    Money supply is contracting in many areas.

    More people paying off debt than taking new loans.

    When consumers increase net borrowing, then inflation should take off.

    Right now, gold and oil are in a speculative bull rally, fueled by expectations of future inflation derived from M1.

    Which makes sense.