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?"→
Last November, shortly after the election, I wrote a column that discussed the “claustrophobic, one-dimensional, group-think atmosphere” at the Federal Reserve. “With just a couple of exceptions, everyone on the Fed, voting or non-voting, is an economist, teaches economics, or worked in the banking industry on one side or the other,” I wrote then. No business people, no small business owners, no one “who lives and works in the real world, who has to deal with the edicts the Fed hands down.”
Like many people, I have been angered and outright disgusted by the mainstream media’s disgraceful behavior during the recent presidential campaign. Back in the late 1970s, when American journalism as we used to know it still existed, my college professors taught us that one of the purposes of a free press is to serve as a watchdog over the government. Since then that noble idea has been turned on its head, as a good part of the media has become an operating arm of the ruling class and one of the two major political parties.
But what particularly bugs me is when this liberal bias crops up where I don’t expect nor want to see it. In this case, I am referring to Bloomberg and its sister Businessweek magazine, of which I have been an avid reader and subscriber for the past several years. Unfortunately, this otherwise excellent business and financial news source has succumbed to the same liberal cheerleading as its mainstream brethren. Continue reading "Finally, The Fed Does Something Right"→
We must be getting closer to the global asset bubble bursting or the end of central bank intervention, or both since the latter is likely to cause the former. How do I know? Central banks and the international agencies that support their policies have already begun the blame game, in order to deflect criticism from themselves when the bubble does burst.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi started the process two weeks ago. With the troubles at Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank, perhaps as his reference point, Draghi struck back at European bankers’ criticism of the ECB’s negative interest rate policies, which the banks blame for their difficulty in turning a profit. While accepting some of the responsibility for that, he instead said a good part of the blame belongs to the commercial banks themselves.
“Low-interest rates tend to squeeze net interest margins owing to downward rigidity in banks’ deposit rates,” Draghi admitted. “But over-banking is also a factor in the current low level of bank profitability. Overcapacity in some national banking sectors and the ensuing intensity of competition exacerbates this squeeze on margins.”
This question is not as preposterous as it may seem.
For the financial markets, the biggest event of the week starts tomorrow: On Wednesday and Thursday (Feb. 10-11) Fed chair Janet Yellen will appear before Congress to deliver her semi-annual Monetary Policy Report.
"It's huge." That's how one strategist put it this morning, in a CNBC interview about the importance of Yellen's testimony.
Why are all eyes on Yellen? Maybe because by now, almost everyone has forgotten how powerless the Fed appeared in 2007-2009, when none of its measures could stop the financial crisis. Despite the recent market chaos, six years of rising stock prices reaffirmed the notion that the Fed can move mountains. "As the Fed goes, so do the markets" is the current mantra -- so, on Wednesday and Thursday, analysts will be listening carefully: Will Yellen mention the ongoing market turmoil? Continue reading "Can The Fed Drop Interest Rates Below 0%?"→