Let's Not Relive The Past The Hard Way

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


Be careful what you wish for. That’s my modest advice to some bankers and their government regulators who want to ease up on bank oversight.

An article in the Wall Street Journal last week reported that several banks around the country are dropping the Federal Reserve as a regulator. The actions so far seem innocent enough, and perfectly reasonable in the examples mentioned, but they did conjure up some bad memories of how the housing bust – and subsequent global financial crisis – got started.

Here’s the story.

According to the Journal, Little Rock-based Bank of the Ozarks in June opted to ditch its holding-company structure, which means it is no longer regulated by the Fed. Now, as a bank only, and not a BHC, it will be regulated solely by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Saving money from having two layers of regulation was the main motivator for the bank. George Gleason, the bank’s CEO, said, “We didn’t really need to be regulated by both.”

The bank, which has about $21 billion in assets, is the largest bank to make such a move, but it’s not the only one. Continue reading "Let's Not Relive The Past The Hard Way"

Fleeing The Fed Ship

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


William Dudley, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has become the latest senior Fed official to announce his retirement. He follows Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer, who announced his intention to resign in September, and Daniel Tarullo, the central bank's top financial regulator, who announced his resignation back in February.

Of course, the biggest departure at the Fed was one that wasn’t voluntary, namely President Trump decision not to renominate Janet Yellen for another term as Fed chair, ignoring 40 years of precedent to reappoint a sitting Fed chief. Instead, of course, he nominated Fed governor Jerome Powell to replace her when her four-year term ends in February. Still, Yellen is entitled to finish her 14-year term as a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors, which doesn’t expire for another seven years, on January 31, 2024, although her staying on would also be unprecedented.
All told, there are now three open seats on the seven-member Board of Governors, which of course may rise to four if Yellen elects to leave.

It’s pertinent to ask, then: What are all the departures at the Fed, both voluntary and involuntarily, signaling? Is it simply senior officials graciously moving aside to let a new president get a chance to pick his own people? Or is there something more sinister afoot, namely, do they indicate that a big change in the market is about to occur and they want to get out before the chickens come home to roost? Continue reading "Fleeing The Fed Ship"

Janet Yellen's Final Exam

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


Although he professes to “really like her a lot,” President Trump appears to have made up his mind that that the next chair of the Federal Reserve won’t be the incumbent of the past four years, Janet Yellen.

On Tuesday, according to media reports, the president asked Republican senators for a show of hands on whether they favored current Fed governor Jerome H. Powell or John B. Taylor, the Stanford University economics professor and frequent Fed critic. Results of the informal vote weren’t disclosed. On the same day, the New York Times ran an article comparing the “finalists” for the Fed chair position, mentioning only Powell and Taylor, even though the White House has said Trump is considering three additional candidates, including Yellen.

So it now looks like it’s a two-man race between Powell and Taylor. Trump has promised to make an announcement any day, at least before his trip to Asia at the end of next week.
Regardless of who he chooses, it’s certainly an appropriate time to review Yellen’s tenure as Fed chair, either as a historical exercise or as an indicator of what we can expect for the next four years in the event she is reappointed. Let’s look at some of the main points. Continue reading "Janet Yellen's Final Exam"

Is Janet Coming Back?

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


A lot of names have been thrown around to be the next head of the Federal Reserve. But who is the most likely person President Trump will name?

The current occupant, Janet Yellen, has to be considered the front-runner, although that doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be renominated. Indeed, I would put the odds of her being reappointed at less than 50-50 – a lot less.

She does have several things going for her. First and foremost, she’s a known quantity. The markets would certainly be happy if Yellen were reappointed, if for no other reason than that they’ll know what they’re getting. With the major stock indexes all at or near all-time highs, and the bull market already nine years old, the market doesn’t want anything untoward to upset the status quo.

But as we should know well by now, stability isn’t exactly Trump’s comfort zone. Two weeks ago, he had no problem telling investors in billions of Puerto Rican bonds that they could pound sand, which caused a major meltdown in the price of those bonds (administration officials subsequently walked back his remarks).

Would he risk something like that happening to the entire bond and stock markets by not reappointing Yellen? (Even if she doesn’t get reappointed as Fed chair, Yellen’s term as a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors doesn’t end until January 2024, although it’s expected that she’ll resign if she’s not renamed as chair).

Besides the stability factor, the main reason why the markets like Yellen, of course, is because, in the words of Mr. Trump himself on the campaign trail in May 2016, “She is a low-interest rate person, she’s always been a low-interest rate person, and let’s be honest, I’m a low-interest rate person.” He reiterated those feelings in July in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, in which he added, “I think she’s done a good job.” Continue reading "Is Janet Coming Back?"

Will The Fed Drop The Hammer On Wells Fargo?

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


A few weeks ago Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen made some short – but very direct – comments about one of the big banks under the Fed’s oversight.

“Let me say that I consider the behavior of Wells Fargo toward its customers to have been egregious and unacceptable,” she said at her press conference following the Fed’s September monetary policy meeting. “We take our supervision responsibilities of the company very seriously. And we are attempting to understand what the root causes of those problems are and to address them.”

Now, for a person one of whose job requirements is to always speak cryptically, vague and ambiguously in public – Fedspeak, in other words – to call out one of the largest banks in the country and call its behavior “egregious and unacceptable” is pretty startling. That’s why I believe a major fine – at least $1 billion – against the Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC) by the Fed is coming.

Not only would it be justified, but certainly not out of line given past Fed penalties against other banks that committed far less “egregious” misdeeds. The fact that all of Wells’s transgressions were highly publicized and committed against consumers – millions of them – makes it even more imperative that the Fed let Wells have it between the eyes.

Let’s look at some recent big fines imposed by the Fed against the banks it regulates: Continue reading "Will The Fed Drop The Hammer On Wells Fargo?"