What's Behind the Fed's Inflation Obsession?

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


The battle lines are being drawn for the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy meeting this week. The prevailing market consensus right now is that no resolution of the debate – which mainly concerns inflation – will happen at the meeting, meaning there will be no change in interest rates, and may not be before the end of this year.

One side of the issue, which seems to be the prevailing view at the central bank, was recently promulgated by Fed governor Lael Brainard at a meeting of the Economic Club of New York. “My own view is that we should be cautious about tightening policy further until we are confident inflation is on track to achieve our target,” she said. “We have been falling short of our inflation objective not just in the past year, but over a longer period as well. What is troubling is five straight years in which inflation fell short of our target despite a sharp improvement in resource utilization.”

The other side, which appears to be the minority opinion, is represented by William Dudley, the president of the New York Fed, who isn’t overly concerned about the current level of inflation. “Even though inflation is currently somewhat below our longer-run objective, I judge that it is still appropriate” to raise interest rates soon, he said recently. “I expect that we will continue to gradually remove monetary policy accommodation.” Continue reading "What's Behind the Fed's Inflation Obsession?"

Trump To GOP: Drop Dead

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


As much as I don’t like the fact that President Trump had to make a deal with the Devils – i.e., Democrats – to reach a temporary budget agreement, he did the only sensible thing he could do to avoid a government shutdown. He was able to increase the government’s borrowing limit and get emergency aid for Hurricane Harvey victims, all in one fell swoop.

Rather than wait around for the do-nothing Republicans in Congress to, well, do nothing, Trump agreed to a deal with the likes of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to at least get something done that needed to be done quickly. Was it the deal he really wanted? No. Was it the best deal? Probably not. Was it the best deal he could get right now under the circumstances? Probably. That’s politics.

But it might lead to bigger, better and more important agreements down the road, most immediately tax reform, and that was more likely Trump’s primary goal. He knew he couldn’t rely on Republicans for that. Continue reading "Trump To GOP: Drop Dead"

Fed Can't Backtrack On Regulatory Reforms

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


I’ve been pretty harsh in this column on Federal Reserve monetary policy, but the one area that I haven’t written much about– financial regulation – is probably the main area where the Fed does deserve a lot of credit.

In her speech at the Jackson Hole symposium late last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen probably disappointed a lot of market watchers for her failure to talk about interest rates or unwinding the Fed’s balance sheet. Instead, she spent most of her speech defending the Fed’s actions in the regulatory realm in the wake of the global financial crisis and pushed back against critics who want to roll back those regulations, including President Trump, who vowed that he wants to “do a big number” on Dodd-Frank.

If Yellen wants to be reappointed to her position by Trump when it ends in February, she certainly didn’t sound like it. Then again, making comments in opposition to Trump is hardly a heroic stance.

Still, she deserves credit for defending the Fed’s position on bank regulation, and the next Fed chair, whether it’s Yellen, Gary Cohn, or someone else, should stick with the current policy, which will go a long way toward keeping our banking system safe and secure and make sure that the global financial crisis doesn’t repeat itself. After all, if you can’t trust keeping your money in a bank, nothing else matters. Continue reading "Fed Can't Backtrack On Regulatory Reforms"

The Madness of Crowds

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


What a difference a week makes. Two weeks ago we were in a nuclear standoff with North Korea’s mad dictator. Then just a week later the nation was plunged into a “crisis” over a few thousand – or is it a couple of hundred? – Klansmen and Nazis, which had the smartest people in government, business and politics refighting the Civil War. Kim Jong-Un and his sycophants in Pyongyang must be laughing themselves silly, or kicking themselves for backing down.

President Donald Trump
Image Courtesy of AP

If all we have to worry about is a bunch of Klansmen and Nazis parading in the streets, things must be pretty darn good in the United States. So intelligent investors shouldn’t be overly alarmed and go about their business, as they seemed to be doing by the end of last week.

Then again, this phony outrage has nothing to do with racism or hate or statues of Confederate generals. It has everything to do with President Donald Trump’s enemies trying to remove him from office.

Whether they will be successful or not remains to be determined. But last week’s events certainly should leave us a little concerned, since we learned a little bit more about who Trump’s friends are, and who he can count on for support if things get worse. Continue reading "The Madness of Crowds"

Ladies and Gentlemen: Gridlock Is Good

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


One of the marvels of the continued bull market in stocks this year – and to a much lesser extent in bonds, too – is that it’s taking place in spite of what appears to be a tremendous amount of dysfunction and conflict within the federal government. But it’s perhaps more accurate to say that the bull market continues to motor on because of, rather than in spite of, the gridlock.

Leave it to the Republican Party to create government gridlock single-handedly – without any assistance from the opposition party. Here is a party that controls both houses of Congress and the presidency and yet still manages to screw things up.

Then again, maybe it’s wrong to think of Donald Trump as a Republican president. Rather, perhaps the correct way to think of Trump is as America’s first Third Party President, who just happened to use the machinery of the Republican Party to get elected, but is no more a Republican than Ross Perot was.

Quite clearly there are three active parties, or factions, in Washington, and all of them are aligned against each other – the Republicans, the Democrats, and the White House. Continue reading "Ladies and Gentlemen: Gridlock Is Good"