Trump: Bad Bankers Beware

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


So now President Trump has thrown himself into the discussion about Wells Fargo. Maybe now the bank will get the justice it deserves. And maybe now the message about Trump’s intentions about financial regulation will become less fake.

First a little background. Three months ago Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen made some pretty startling comments for a Fed chief, publicly criticizing Wells’ behavior toward its customers as “egregious and unacceptable.”

She was talking, of course, about the bank’s years-long practice of signing up its customers for checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and other products without asking their permission or even telling them. But since then there have been reports and admissions by the bank of several other excesses, such as charging auto loan customers for insurance they didn’t ask for, dunning mortgage customers for interest rate-lock extension fees when the bank itself caused the delays, overcharging military veterans on mortgage refinance loans, and allegedly closing customers’ accounts without telling them why it did so.

You would think that the Fed – which regulates Wells and other big banks – would have come down on the bank by now. Yet nothing’s happened since Yellen made those comments.

Then last week the president injected himself into the fray. Continue reading "Trump: Bad Bankers Beware"

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"

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"