Will China Nuke Its Own Treasury Portfolio?

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates - China U.S. government debt


If you’re an investor in U.S. Treasury bonds, should you be worried that China may go nuclear? (No, not that kind of nuclear, the kind in the headline of a recent Reuters article about China’s supposed “nuclear option” to stop buying, if not outright sell, its huge holdings of American government bonds).

According to that report – speculation, really – China may consider retaliating against President Trump’s tough tariff talk by pulling its indirect support of the U.S. government, namely its holdings of about $1.2 trillion of Treasury securities. That makes it the largest foreign holder of that debt. Japan is a close second with $1.1 trillion, while Ireland (Ireland?) is a distant third with $328 billion. Altogether, $6.2 trillion of the U.S. government’s total debt of $20 trillion is held by foreign entities or about 31%. That would put China’s share at about 18% of the total foreign-held amount and less than 6% of the grand total.

In case you were wondering, the Federal Reserve holds about $4.5 trillion of the national debt or about four times what China owns. The Social Security Administration owns about $2.8 trillion.

So, is this something we really need to be worried about, even under the remote possibility that China would actually, in financial terms, cut off its nose to spite its face? Continue reading "Will China Nuke Its Own Treasury Portfolio?"

Higher Bond Yields In 2018?

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


As a homeowner in a high-tax Blue state, I’m not sure I have a whole lot to be personally happy about in the Trump tax reform bill. My state’s government, which is already teetering financially, isn’t likely to reduce its own taxes to compensate for the cap on deducting state and local taxes. Nevertheless, I’m happy that the measure passed.

For one thing, it’s heartening to see the Republicans stand fast for a change and actually follow through on something their constituents have demanded and expected from them, rather than caving in the face of criticism from their liberal opponents in Congress and the press. I’m also getting a lot of enjoyment listening to the breathless hyperbole by Nancy “Armageddon” Pelosi, Chuck “Fake Tears” Schumer and the gang denouncing the bill, plus the stories by their allies in the press about the “victims” of tax reform, neglecting to mention the “victims” at AT&T, Wells Fargo and all who are being given immediate raises as a result of the measure.

Not a whole lot has been written or said about one of the more likely consequences of the package, and that’s that interest rates are going to move higher in 2018.

Already, in just a few days leading up to the passage of the bill, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped 15 basis points to 2.50%, its highest level since last March and just 10 or so bps below its high for the year. It’s likely to rise further in 2018. Here’s why. Continue reading "Higher Bond Yields In 2018?"

The Fed's 2018 New Year's Resolution

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


In February Jerome Powell takes over as chair of the Federal Reserve, succeeding Janet Yellen. His first order of business should be to get the Fed off its silly, outdated and nonsensical monetary policy target of 2% inflation. He and the other members of the Federal Open Market Committee should at the very least change the inflation target number, or, better yet, find a different measuring stick altogether.

One of the Fed’s mandates, we know, is to keep inflation “stable,” as noted on the Fed’s website, citing the Federal Reserve Act (the other two mandates are achieving maximum employment and moderate long-term interest rates). The current Fed has taken to defining price stability as 2% inflation. Given that the Fed already basically believes it has accomplished the other two objectives, and price inflation has been nothing but rock-solid stable for several years, it’s not clear why it’s still so determined to get inflation up to that 2% target rate, and letting that dictate its monetary policy. If prices are stable at about 1.5%, rather than 2%, doesn’t that meet the mandate, as long as prices are stable?

During the Great Depression of the 1930s the lack of inflation – more accurately, deflation – was a big problem, feeding the downward spiral in the economy for more than ten years. Since then, economists, both on the Fed and elsewhere, have been absolutely terrified of that happening again, even though we haven’t come close to it, not even during the depths of the recent Great Recession. Now that we have seemed to have finally pulled out of the last financial crisis, it’s time to put that deflation obsession to rest. Continue reading "The Fed's 2018 New Year's Resolution"

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"