Ladies and Gentlemen: Gridlock Is Good

George Yacik - 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"

Coming Soon: Uncle Sam's Credit Cards

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates

If you were in the market for a new credit card or needed a loan to buy a car, would you think to go to some federal agency to get one?

Not right now, maybe, but we seem to be headed in that direction—and very quickly, too.

And the idea isn’t all that far-fetched when you come to think of it. The federal government is already heavily involved in consumer lending, either directly or indirectly. It’s the biggest player by far in the two biggest consumer loan businesses. Getting into new areas like credit cards and auto loans isn’t a terribly big leap.

It’s fairly safe to say that the residential mortgage market would barely exist were it not for the government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, plus other government agencies like the FHA, VA, and USDA. While these agencies don’t make loans themselves, they buy them from private lenders, stamping a federal guarantee on them in the process. Before the global financial crisis, there was a thriving market for private mortgages through a private secondary market, but since then that market has largely ceased to exist, except for a smattering of securities backed by jumbo loans, those too large for the federal agencies to buy. That leaves the government with about a 90% or more market share. Prior to the financial crisis, the government still commanded a market share of about 50%. Continue reading "Coming Soon: Uncle Sam's Credit Cards"