Negative rates and the no bid Repo: It’s not your father’s overnight funding market

7/14/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

A great deal has occurred since our last correspondence, most of it bad news for what passes today as monetary policy.

Fellow taxpayers have no doubt noticed that our once faithful correspondence has been less than faithful over the past several months. While explanations amongst chums the likes of which we have become are unnecessary, we offer a brief glimpse as to how The Mint has been spending his precious time as of late.

For starters, we have been frantically reconstructing 2013 and making various systems upgrades on our most recent assignment. Now that the work has been done and passed audit, we are moving through regular compliance reports and are about to begin the second part, (our personal favorite) of our not quite patented one/two accounting and treasury systems overhaul: The treasury overhaul part of the program.

Here we digress into what we consider our unique philosophy on data processing with regards to accounting information systems. If you could care less about such matters, please scroll to the next bolded heading to return to our long running commentary on the failing debt based money supply.

A mere 11 years ago, we considered ourselves an accountant. We acted like an accountant, worked like an accountant, even smelled like an accountant (if indeed accountants can be said to have a smell about them).

Then we went to Spain, and had nothing short of an epiphany, which is as follows: Real business people could care less about proper accounting, they simply want the accounts collected and the bills paid, a steady stream of cash in the bank, and they want to get real-time financial metrics which will let them both know how their past decisions have fared and, more importantly, allow them to make better decisions about the future.

With this epiphany fresh in our mind, we realized that most accounting systems, while built by programmers to serve the business person, had been hijacked by accountants when they were set up, in most cases rendering the information the business person was to receive subject to seemingly infinite torture by the accountants before it could be presented, at which time the information was neither timely or useful to the business person.

With this realization, we developed our two-step approach to assisting business people in reclaiming their accounting data. The first step involves ensuring that the accounting system they are using is both adequate (it may come as a shock that many companies pay too much for systems that are no longer a good fit for them) and set up to capture and report the business’s financial data in a way that facilitates high level decision-making.

The second step involves addressing the issue of the timeliness of the data. We realized that in a great majority of transactions, the bank received the data before the accounting department did, and much valuable time and effort was wasted by waiting for the accounting department to input data into the accounting system, much of which was provided by the bank rather than internal sources, and then reconciling the system to the bank statement. The entire process was backwards, so we decided to perform data processing directly in the banks’ treasury management systems, where the transactions are initiated, approved, and executed, and have the bank data be easily uploaded into the accounting system, where it can be matched with vendor and client data and properly classified.

There you have it, it is much easier said than done, but once our program is complete, most companies we engage can get by with half of the accounting/fiscal personnel they had before, get their data in a timely and coherent manner, and usually end up saving money on their systems to boot.

In any event, between earning our daily bread in the above manner, watching the World Cup, and editing a taxonomic paper on Central American land crabs (which can be seen here: http://biodiversitydatajournal.com/articles.php?id=1161), we have been following the disintegration of the debt based currency system from a comfortable distance. Our observations on the most recent ruptures follow:

The No bid Repo: It’s not your father’s overnight funding market

In the late 1980′s, the Federal Reserve had just begun what would be a series of automatic bailouts to the larger financial system. After Black Tuesday in 1987, it became clear to most sober observers that the Fed would do everything in its power, which at the time was limited to rigging short-term interest rates, to ensure that financial markets remained liquid at all costs.

Perhaps not coincidentally, in the late 1980′s, Oldsmobile ran a series of commercials with the tagline, “it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile,” which seemed to be a vain attempt to minimize the “Old” and emphasize the “mobile” part of its name. In case you don’t remember how exhilarating it was, videoarcheology.com brings it to life for us once again:

What did the strategy of the Fed and the strategy of Oldsmobile have in common? They both assumed that demand for their product, no matter how unappealing it was, would be infinite. Oldsmobile gave up the ghost in 2004, maybe people did want their father’s Oldsmobile after all.

The Fed is still hard at work, but their product, the debt-based currency used by most financial institutions in the United States and indeed throughout the world, is going the way of the Oldsmobile.

The Federal Reserve got by for nearly 95 years by monopolizing the ability to provide something for nothing, something that appealed to governments, companies, and consumers alike. They substituted debt for money, and in the process opened up a world of possibilities never before fathomed.

The plan went well, people began to circulate the debt in place of money, with those closest to the Fed paying the least and those furthest way paying more, and people toiled day in and day out to move further up the food chain.

Sure, using debt as money left the occasional sinkhole in the economy, on those rare occasions when more debts were being cancelled than issued, but the Fed simply lowered interest rates to provide adequate incentive for people to demand more debt, lowering the perceived price of getting something for nothing.

Now, circa 2014, the Fed has lowered interest rates to zero and has taken the extra step of creating even more debt of its own to circulate. While things should be going gangbusters at the Fed factory, we open the pages of the financial news to find that:

a) The Fed can no longer control the interest rate mechanism as it did before and;

b) The Repo market, which funds $1.6 trillion in short-term loans every business day, is going no bid on an increasingly regular basis thanks to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which was supposed to fix these sort of problems.

{Editor’s Note: For a primer on the Repo Market, read this paper by the NY Fed: Key Mechanics of the U.S. Tri-Party Repo Market, we dare you}

The Federal Reserve’s debt based monetary system has reached its theoretical limit. While the ECB has toyed with the idea of negative interest rates, the US market, specifically US Treasuries which are sucked into the Repo Market nightly, is rendering negative rates on its own, and the Fed is powerless to stop it.

In layman’s terms, the game has flipped on the Fed, and now people and companies are essentially saying “lend me $100 today, and I’ll pay you back $97 in a year and we are square.” Crazy as it may sound, this is the reality on the fringe of the credit markets, and it is the price of continuing to deal in a debt-based currency that is passed its prime.

Let’s face it, Oldsmobile wasn’t cool in 1988. They had tinkered with it to such a degree that it would never again be your father’s Oldsmobile, and that was not a good thing. In the same way, between QE, Operation Twist, and near zero short-term rate targeting, Ben Bernanke has so severely mangled the Fed’s balance sheet with his tinkering that maintaining the integrity of the US dollar and US Treasuries as any sort of measure of reliable benchmark is all but impossible.

Now, the engine of the Fed’s debt based currency is beginning to lose speed via negative nominal rates, and Janet Yellen is looking into the toolbox, only to realize that Ben left most of the tools rigged in the engine of the Fed’s Balance sheet, and that moving any one of them will cause a catastrophic failure of the currency. Not to mention that long-awaited, highly inflationary wage – price spiral is about to kick in.

Academic economists will one day struggle to explain what is happening now, while inflation rises, interest rates continue to dip further, going negative at the top of the financial food chain, and the Fed is left with nothing but rhetoric with which to attempt to execute monetary policy. This is likely to get ugly and, if possible, defy the laws of finance and perhaps even mathematics before the game is up.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: [email protected]

Key Indicators for July 14, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.25
Oil Price per Barrel: $100.51

Corn Price per Bushel: $3.78
10 Yr US Treasury Bond: 2.52%
Bitcoin price in US: $618.00
FED Target Rate: 0.09%
Gold Price Per Ounce: $1,339

MINT Perceived Target Rate*: 0.25%
Unemployment Rate: 6.1%
Inflation Rate (CPI): 0.4%
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 16,944
M1 Monetary Base: $2,961,000,000,000

M2 Monetary Base: $11,284,500,000,000

 

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The ECB negative rate announcement is a cannibalistic non-event

6/22/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

On June 5th, the European Central Bank made modern Central Banking history by providing the world with its first announcement of what they call a negative interest rate. For those who may be scratching their heads at the concept of a negative interest rate, we offer the following layman’s definition:

It is a commission that is charged every month for holding too many Euros in the wrong place.

In the mind of the clever central banker, a negative interest rate provides a simple disincentive to hoard Euros. In his or her mind, the way to invigorate the European economy is to force Euros into circulation by turning them into a sort of hot potato, though at -0.10% the analogy is more akin to a potato emanating scarcely enough heat to melt a pat of butter.

Following the infallible logic of the central banker, the banks will take the money and lend it, as putting 100% of deposits at risk via a loan in a terribly disjointed economic zone is clearly a better alternative that loosing a guaranteed 0.10% annually by parking it overnight at the ECB.

This would be a brilliant solution were the simple hoarding of Euros the only thing ailing the Euro system. Unfortunately for the ECB and indeed, Euro holders in general, the problem with the Euro is that it is dying a strange death at the hands of deflation and strangulating the European economy in the process. Following this set of facts, it would hold that the safer bet for those who find themselves holding excess Euros would be to pay down higher rate liabilities in lieu of holding Euros overnight at the cannibalistic ECB, whose actions, while for the moment are foreseen to be a non-event, will ultimately lead to an implosion of the 15 year-old Euro currency.

What is lost on the European central bank is that they are managing a debt-based currency that looks like money but smells something much different. While charging a commission on bank deposits in hopes of getting currency flowing again may seem a good idea, the dynamics of the debt-based currency make this strategy akin to economic suicide. Fabian for Liberty appears to take a slightly different slant on the subject and arrives at the same conclusion:

Debt is the lifeblood of modern currency, and a large part of what gives debt based currency its allure is the illusion of getting something for nothing in the form of usury. On June 5th, the ECB pierced the veil on interest rates and the illusion of getting something for nothing along with it. This has never been attempted by a modern monetary authority, and once again the ECB has shown that if there are errors to be made in the management of debt based currency, they are willing to make it.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: [email protected]

Key Indicators for June 22, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.10
Oil Price per Barrel: $106.83

Corn Price per Bushel: $4.53
10 Yr US Treasury Bond: 2.62%
Bitcoin price in US: $599.07
FED Target Rate: 0.10%
Gold Price Per Ounce: $1,315

MINT Perceived Target Rate*: 0.25%
Unemployment Rate: 6.3%
Inflation Rate (CPI): 0.4%
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 16,947
M1 Monetary Base: $2,728,900,000,000

M2 Monetary Base: $11,306,300,000,000

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It is Junuary in the Land of Giants

6/1/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

It is Junuary. For readers who have not had the pleasure of living in the Land of Giants, Junuary is the time of year when one looks at their calendar to find it clearly indicates the month of June, yet a look outside at the rain and colder temperatures seems to confirm one’s instinct that it is indeed January.

Fortunately, one way or another, Junuary yields to July, and the summer inevitably arrives in full force in the Pacific Northwest.

The US economy appears to be enjoying a Junuary of its own. In terms of monetary policy, it is January. On one hand, as GDP clocked in at a negative 1% for the first quarter of 2014, which in hindsight is quite natural when an economy that runs on a credit based currency created by fiat absorbs a loss of $40 Billion of anticipated new money flows with more reductions to come.

Yet at the same time, it is June. Our key indicators here at The Mint reflect a situation in which the effects of monetary policy are quite the same as they have been for some time now, from the standpoint of the real economy, Q1 was business as usual in this recovery. {Editor’s Note: Bitcoin, for all its detractors, has weathered the Mt. Gox bankruptcy just fine, and now sits at an astonishing $646 USD per coin. Yet for all its price resilience, economists continue to call for regulation. The point of Bitcoin is that it cannot be regulated, and the position that it can be regulated stems from a wrong understanding of the role of money in general and Bitcoin’s role in the monetary strata on the part of the regulators.}

Further, the FED’s favorite indicators such as Unemployment, which now sits at 6.3%, average hourly earnings, up 1.9% year over year, and headline CPI is up 1.6% with core CPI up 1.4%. Similarly, housing prices continue their meteoric rise and consumer confidence continues to improve.

Consumer Confidence Chart

So what is it? January or June? If you are a financial commentator, it looks like January, with financial disaster just around the corner despite the improved data.

However, if you look beyond the numbers to what is actually occurring, it is June, with a substantial risk of a financial forest fire. The tinder on the ground has been there for nearly 5 years now; the Federal Reserve’s relentless money creation has left fuel in every corner of the forest. The only reason the landscape has not gone up in flames as a result is that consumer have not dared start a fire of their own.

Now, consumers are beginning to start their fires, and the trifecta of lower unemployment, wage inflation, and CPI is about to catch the FED completely off guard. Their monetary medicine has a serious side effect, it creates what we refer to as a scorched earth economy, and the dose required to keep the failed system afloat during this last round may take the forest down altogether.

Junuary is here, and July is just around the corner. Inflation is about to become an important part of the economic landscape for the foreseeable future. At first, we may enjoy the pleasant kind, where housing prices and stock rise abnormally with pay bump. However, it will be followed by the unpleasant kind, where coffee and groceries take an outsized bite out of one’s paycheck. The summer will be very interesting indeed.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: [email protected]

Key Indicators for June 1, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.14
Oil Price per Barrel: $102.71

Corn Price per Bushel: $4.65
10 Yr US Treasury Bond: 2.48%
Bitcoin price in US: $646.01
FED Target Rate: 0.09%
Gold Price Per Ounce: $1,251

MINT Perceived Target Rate*: 0.25%
Unemployment Rate: 6.3%
Inflation Rate (CPI): 0.3%
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 16,717
M1 Monetary Base: $2,740,100,000,000

M2 Monetary Base: $11,218,600,000,000

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A Brief Bitcoin Q&A

We were recently contacted by someone who had seen our volume on Bitcoin, cryptically entitled “Bitcoins: What they are and how to use them” which was written on one of those weekend trysts which economic thinkers are prone to, in which a flurry of ideas flies at one’s mind from all quarters and scream to be put on paper.

Bitcoins: What they are and how to use them

Bitcoins: What they are and how to use them

The book, which was literally cobbled together over the span of four days, has been our bestseller recently, which naturally has more to do with Bitcoin than ourselves.

In their inquiry, the reader had three further inquiries which we present below for those who are interested in such matters. Enjoy!

Q: What do you think about the relation between physical and virtual currency?

The Mint: Generally speaking, the relation between physical and virtual currencies can be judged by examining the price for the physical currency expressed in the virtual currency. However, I think it will be helpful to make a distinction, as the concept of virtual currency is simply another extension, or “strata”, as I like to call it, of something I refer to as the “Monetary Premium.” Allow me to explain:

The concept of currency stems from the Monetary Premium that is attached to something, ultimately giving it value in trade. (please read this post for a description of the Monetary Premium concept and its origins: http://davidmint.com/2014/02/08/the-division-of-labor-gives-rise-to-the-monetary-premium/ )

Over time, as the division of labor has increased, the need for credit and, by extension, something by which to exchange the monetary premium (i.e. serve as money) in order to settle the debt, has increased as well to the point that, today, all currency issued by government’s is a credit instrument (a liability of the Central Bank) and has only an indirect relationship to anything physical.

Given this, virtual currency, to the extent that it is accepted in trade, is synonymous with all other forms of currency in that it represents an indirect claim on physical wealth.

What many consider to be hard, or physical currency, such as gold and silver, will then have a relationship to either virtual currencies (such as Bitcoin) or credit based currencies (such as US dollars or Brazilian reais) which is expressed as a ratio, or price. By extension, both virtual and credit based currencies will serve as pricing mechanisms for goods and services.

I hope the above makes sense, as it is getting to a key misconception that many have regarding money in general.

Q: What is the future of Bitcoin?

The Mint: As with any currency, bitcoin will have value and be traded until people lose confidence in it. That said, bitcoin has two flaws that will make it increasingly difficult to use in trade:

1) By design, there can only be a very limited amount of debt denominated in Bitcoin. While most see this as attractive (indeed, it is what helps support its value), it will severely hinder the expansion of Bitcoin proper in trade as the algorithm ticks closer to the limit of ~21 million Bitcoins (never mind that many Bitcoins that previously circulated are trapped in wallets on hard drives which are in rubbish heaps now, never to be “mined” again!).

2) The limitation on Bitcoin creation will dramatically reduce incentives to support the Bitcoin transaction validation process (known as “mining”) right at the time when it is most necessary. This is where Bitcoin will shoot itself in the foot, and nobody knows what will happen then, but what is certain is that transaction processing will become a paid feature by providers or that it will become so slow that people will gravitate away from Bitcoin to other digital currencies who have no such flaw.

What is likely to occur is that Bitcoin will assume its place as the “gold standard” against which all subsequent virtual currencies will be measured. In the same way that many national currencies are still measured against gold on the open market, so it will be that Bitcoin, given its finite production, will become, as gold has become, little more than an important point of reference for whatever virtual currency is currently predominately used in trade.

Q: What is the effect on the world economy?

The Mint: While the origins of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies may have been experimental and ideological in nature, their increasing acceptance is owed to the fact that they are filling a void in trade. Namely, mediums of communication facilitated by the Internet have expanded trade exponentially and created needs for mediums of exchange (a way to transmit the monetary premium mentioned above) that national currencies cannot keep pace with.

The current system of national currencies and banking provide a number of barriers to currency creation which leaves a void that solutions such as Bitcoin are able to fulfill, in the process creating a windfall for those who have successfully speculated in such currencies.

The effect of virtual currencies such as Bitcoin on the world economy, then, has been and will be to further facilitate trade and, by extension, the division of labor in the world economy. This is a very good thing as it will ultimately lead to a more perfect balance of trade, one that is not subject to the whim of a Central banker’s assessment of the need to expand or contract the money supply.

The latter has implications for the current nation-state which I won’t go into, but the people of the world now can, through the Bitcoin and broader virtual currency story, begin to envision a world economy that is not dominated by currencies emitted by National Central banks, what will happen with that vision is something that is likely to play out in our lifetimes.

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Yellen and the Senate Banking Committee describe a winter economy

The Honorable Dr. Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve, testified before the Senate Banking Committee yesterday in a ceremony that her predecessor, Dr. Bernanke, must have come to dread towards the end of his tenure.

Janet Yellen becomes the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve

Of course, towards the end, Dr. Bernanke’s tenure had been marked by the largest economic downturn in memory for most and he found himself shouldering much of the blame. Bodies such as the Senate Banking Committee often took the opportunity to grill Bernanke on the latest financial headlines or the direct complaints from their constituents stemming from various financial debacles that had unfolded during his tenure. Be it Lehman Brothers, MF Global, or the troubled housing market, Bernanke could count on questions ranging from the dangerous to the ridiculous from committee members who were, in many cases, further removed from reality than Dr. Bernanke himself.

So it was that Yellen took the hot seat that her predecessor had dreaded yesterday before a new set of faces in order to explain what she sees in her economic crystal ball.

From what could be gathered from the mostly scripted exchange between the parties, there seems to be a range of lingering worries in the minds of policy holders as to the health of the US economy, which recently clocked in at an underwhelming 0.1% annual growth rate in Q1 of 2014. The worries, which are no doubt rooted in recent history, range from the continued drop in labor force participation rates and what many see as a stalled out recovery in the housing market.

The US Q1 GDP number can be summed up in a phrase that Red Green was fond of, “It is winter.” Housing markets invariably slow down over the winter months, which are generally a drag on GDP as households recover from the Q4 holiday spending binge.

Labor market participation, which surfaced as a primary concern during yesterday’s hearing, is a much more complex problem, for deep down it validates the fears of nearly every thinking economist, that the US is following in the footsteps of Japan’s demographic and economic precedent.

The real problem with the US economy was not addressed directly at this hearing, nor is it likely to ever be addressed in such a forum: The extraordinary measures employed by the Fed back in 2008 in an effort to prop up the international banking system have forever altered the mode of transmitting credit into the economy. This has caused a broad based reset of the banking food chain at a time when the US economy could least afford for such a change to occur.

These extraordinary measures will be with us until the US Dollar hits its breaking point, and the inevitable currency reset begins to pick up steam. When this occurs, Dr. Yellen and the Senate Banking Committee are likely to be the last to know.

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A Discussion of the Merits of Short Term Interest Rate Management, Part I

4/28/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

One of our working hypotheses here at The Mint is that short-term interest rate management, the primary tool employed by the Central Banks of the world to implement monetary policy, is necessarily harmful to the economy by providing incentives for achieving what otherwise would be suboptimal economic outcomes. By extension, we believe that these suboptimal outcomes are not simply a lost opportunity or a generator of wasted efforts and resources, but a primary contributor to the imbalances in the environment which today bears the label “climate change.”

Recently, we were invited to present our hypothesis at a Global Macro Roundtable for discussion. Today and over the next several days, we will present a slightly redacted transcript of the roundtable for the consideration of our fellow taxpayers. Names (with the obvious exception of our own) have been changed to protect both the innocent and guilty.

As you will see, the discussion (which we have color coded in order to help follow the cast through the maze of discussion) takes many twists and turns, and in a way reveals how far-reaching the influence of short-term interest rates has become, as well as the broad misunderstanding of the concept of money that persists to this day.

Enjoy!

A Discussion of the Merits of Short Term Interest Rate Management

The hypothesis:

Why Short-Term Interest Rate Management is Harmful to the Economy: The Unseen Funding Dynamic

While the evidence is clear that centralized planning is a failure, pointing to the reasons why can prove elusive. Recently, a revelation regarding the problem with centralized management of short-term interest rates came upon us. The revelation is the following: Imagine you are a banker who needs to fund a loan. In order to fund this loan, you would presumably need to have the money available with which to fund it. This is simple logic, however, in the real world of banking, the decision of whether or not to fund a loan is completely disconnected from the availability of funds, which is primarily determined by the overnight funding markets which, in turn, are completely reliant upon short-term interest rates.

In a world that followed the rules of financial physics, the short-term interest rates would be completely dependent upon the availability of funds in the system. However, the centralized management of interest rates makes this critical data point, which would otherwise provide a snapshot of the amount of capital in an economic system which is held in liquid form and available for deployment, irrelevant, as the amount of capital available in today’s centrally managed system can be determined on whim.

As such, the ability of the banker to fund the loan is not dependent upon an availability of funds that represents the amount of capital available in the real world, rather, his ability to fund the loan is completely dependent upon the borrower’s ability to pay and the size of the loan in relation to the structure of the bank’s balance sheet.

The three criteria above are important, as any underwriter will tell you, but the invisible fourth criteria, the true availability of the funds for the loan, or funding dynamic, is completely ignored in the following fashion:

When the short-term interest is managed to be low, as is the case currently, any borrower who has the capacity to pay and has a lending need that fits well with a certain bank’s loan mix is extremely likely to get funded, regardless of whether or not the economics system as a whole has the capital available to fund his or her loan. When the short-term interest rate is managed to be high, as it was in the early 1980’s in the US, funding any loan, regardless of the ability to pay and fit within bank’s balance sheet, becomes impossible to fund.

In both cases, both borrower and banker are left completely in the dark as to whether or not there exists the necessary capital stock or productive capacity in the economy for the funds to be deployed in the manner that the borrower envisions, for the short-term interest rate signal has been genetically modified to send a common signal to all participants.

Unfortunately, it is a signal that blinds everyone to the facts of the situation. For many are the hopes, dreams, and ideas of mankind, but it is the funding dynamic which keeps these hopes, dreams, and ideas in harmony with the natural world upon which we all depend.

Right now, we are floating in the clouds, completely disconnected from reality. The landing caused by the next round of high rates, via a natural rebalancing of accounts or further genetic modification of the short-term rates, will be very hard indeed.

The funding dynamic is so delicate that mankind cannot hope to optimize it via genetic modification, for when left alone, it is optimized by definition. Again, by definition, every attempt to modify will bring about sub-optimal results.

As with all complex economic and political systems, dissent is information, and serves to manage the system’s outputs while at the same time increasing the resiliency of the system, making it less susceptible to shocks.

Centralized short-term interest rate management must be abandoned before it is too late, for it is leading the activities of mankind towards a dangerous showdown with the limitations of the natural world.

Discussion

Contributor A: This brings to mind the Pareto curve reaching a knee limit and catastrophe theory when there is a Quantum state change in the system being considered (the twig will snap, the water will boil as energy (money) is added, etc.). We are expanding the money supply and disregarding that eventually an infinite amount will be needed.

One other point is the Multiplier effect at the Bank who gets $ 1 Million from the fed and uses a low Reserve to make loans greatly exceeding that because the Loans are an asset on their books ; and, as repayments come in multipliers on those. Where does it stop? When the twig snaps and then raging inflation must kick in at an Exponential level with time. Then SNAP!

Contributor B: I have no disagreement with the conclusion, however, the facts leading there need to be adjusted/considered. For example, in the early 80′s, liquidity was not nearly the issue as it was raised in the statement. Not only did my clients acquire funding as required in that period, but I [stupidly] agreed to a mortgage in that period with an interest rate that still gives me nightmares. For the last few years interest rates have been suppressed, but at the same time my middle market clients have complained of there being insufficient liquidity to fund their business loans, meaning that new business ventures were not realised. This has relaxed in the past year or two slightly, but you need to remember one of the issues regarding the vast amount of dollars being held in banks.

When the FED began shipping huge quantities of dollars to friendly banks after the 2008 crash in order to stabilise some very shaky balance sheets, the FED promised to pay interest to the banks on those funds kept in storage with one absolutely unbreakable codicil: under no circumstances could the banks use those funds as part of their asset base in making loans. In other words, none, zero, zip, nada, NONE of those FED funds could be used for loans. Clearly, this move suppressed what would have been an immediately inflationary environment in the US, a highly destructive inflationary environment. But it also left these banks which were otherwise strapped for funds floundering for any money to loan out to their best small business customers. The banks may have stabililsed in the past few years of lean flow of funds, but it is not that much better in the commercial market for small and mid-sized customers.

The Mint: As Contributor A highlights, the entire modern monetary system is extremely fragile and, given its debt base, could quickly disintegrate were a crisis of confidence to emerge or a widespread failure of technology make it inaccessible.

Contributor B (to whom I will defer on funding experiences of the early 80′s) brings up an important point in the form of the “unbreakable codicil” of the FED with regards to funding intended to shore up the Federal Reserve system. While this move made the banks and system technically solvent, the Fed has ignored the fact that the US economy has outgrown the Federal Reserve system, as the economy is starved for money at a time when the Fed’s measurements indicate that quite the opposite is true.

In the 2008 panic, the Federal Reserve deviated significantly from its traditional funding mechanisms to save its system and has altered the normal monetary transmission protocol. I believe that this has created a feedback loop which will result in the Federal Reserve system receding and other mediums of exchange posturing to take its place.

Contributor B: I thoroughly agree that it will be reset, David. However, while you may see market forces and evolved consumer needs driving this reset, I tend to pay attention to the political aggression of states not at all amicable to the interests of the FED and believe the geopolitical transformation we will witness may be the lynchpin upon which the existence of the FED depends. In the long run it will not really matter to the FED whether it is driven by the economic needs of the consumer or the geopolitical ambitions of another nation, but it will matter to the ordinary participants, I suspect. The withering of FED control worn away by alternative exchange mechanisms will provide a much different life at ground level than the sudden repudiation of the USD as the world reserve currency as anticipated (and desired it seems) by the Chinese military (along with a few others who are tired of US economic hegemony). The former is a transformative change more gradual in nature while the latter can be far more sudden in keeping with the rapid shifts in the global market; the former providing the opportunity to adjust more peacefully while the latter is expected to lead to widespread disruptions in service, food, and support delivery at the ground level. Food riots, water riots, just plain riots, and toilet paper riots… sorry, basic staples of urban and 21st century life will be in short supply. I think I’ll find farmland in another country far away. ;-)

For ease of transition, I’d vote for alternative exchange mechanisms. Curiously, I saw an article a few weeks ago that noted extreme activity increases in southeast Asia on Bitcoin and the development of alternatives… either opportunity or another front in the attack on the USD. It can be both.

Now, to envision a world without central banks. That takes us back a while in history…

Then again, perhaps this graph {Editor’s Note: Regarding the Longevity of currency reserve status over the past 600 years} tells it all:

http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2012/01/20120103_JPM_reserve.png

… and speaking of market competitors, Googlecoin? it is being touted already.

Contributor C:

“Centralized short-term interest rate management must be abandoned before it is too late, for it is leading the activities of mankind towards a dangerous showdown with the limitations of the natural world.”

I like above statement.

This game of interest rate putting up and down could create a crisis if somebody implemented at the wrong time. I consider interest rate as a weapon of mass of destruction if we manage it recklessly. Interest rate volatility creates problems for investors, homeowners and other savers. What about instruments linked to interest rates? What will happen if we don’t carefully manage or misuse those instruments? Why do we see higher interest rates in some periods and lower interest rates in some periods? Can’t we find solution to fix interest rates without creating volatility?”

The discussion, which is about to take many an unforeseen turn, continues tomorrow…things are about to get lively (at least lively as far as short-term interest rates discussions go) indeed!

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: [email protected]

Key Indicators for April 28, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.07
Oil Price per Barrel: $100.93

Corn Price per Bushel: $5.07
10 Yr US Treasury Bond: 2.68%
Bitcoin price in US: $431.71
FED Target Rate: 0.10%
Gold Price Per Ounce: $1,303

MINT Perceived Target Rate*: 0.25%
Unemployment Rate: 6.7%
Inflation Rate (CPI): 0.2%
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 16,361
M1 Monetary Base: $2,721,500,000,000

M2 Monetary Base: $11,353,000,000,000

Posted in Bitcoins, Economics, Monetary Theory, Politics | Tagged , | Comments Off

Basel III Liquidity Ratios

4/18/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Up until the financial crisis of 2008 and beyond, most Americans who were not alive during the early 1930′s had grown up in a world where choosing a bank was largely a matter of preference. Once the FDIC insurance program was instituted on January 1, 1934, depositors had little to worry about.

The financial crisis that the world just experienced was a wake up call on many levels. The first alarm rang for many Americans, members of congress included, when the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was sent on a freight train through the House and Senate under the threat of an imminent global financial meltdown. Meanwhile, in Europe, the European Central Bank and European Union take a series of measures to shore up both their banking system as well as the finances of their member nations.

Giving away trillions of dollars to businesses who made bad decisions, while ultimately the chief function of government, is, paradoxically, politically unpopular. As such, the governments of the world, who found themselves on the hook for losses in the financial system of a nature that many of them could not hope to understand in terms of nature and scope, began to devise a series of rules that would ensure that this sort of thing would never happen again.

So it was that, sometime in 2009, the word Basel, which until that time was a typo on a recipe card, became prevalent in the world of banking.

Basel is a city in Switzerland where the world’s banking regulators chose to meet to put their minds together as to what types of rules were needed so that the financial crisis would never happen again. Today, five years later, the rules that they took so much time to tailor are indeed perfect for a world that existed five years ago. As it stands today, the rules could very well be the cause of the next financial crisis.

The Basel accords and, more specifically, the Basel III Liquidity ratio, which is our focus today, are generally aimed at ensuring that large banks (those with $50 billion USD or more in assets, “too big to fail”, if you will) will always have enough liquid assets to meet the demands made on it each day.

The Basel III liquidity ratio is a simple ratio which places a banks Liquid Assets, meaning cash, Treasuries, and Agencies) over its Stressed Cash Outflows (meaning maximum foreseen withdrawals during a liquidity crisis). The banks must report this ratio at a set time every business day. If the ratio is over 100%, all is well. If not, not, meaning the bank could be forced by regulators to initiate a strategy to unwind its operations.

Serious stuff.

While the numerator of the liquidity ratio is extremely simple to calculate, it is driven by the denominator, which is infinitely more complex. This is where you and I, fellow taxpayer, come in.

Banks will be required to stratify their deposit customers well beyond the simple consumer and business account denominations that have sufficed to some degree until now. They are now required to carefully monitor customers to better understand their daily inflows and outflows from their accounts in order to arrive at a maximum Stressed Cash Outflow number for each category of account.

As a practical matter, the bank will assign each category of customer and account a “run-off” factor, which is expressed as a % of the account’s balance on any given day that may “run” out of the bank. Again, this number is critical for the bank, as it ultimately determines its reinvestment strategy and, by extension, how profitable a deposit customer is.

The good news is that consumer and small business accounts which are FDIC insured are, as of the most recent comment period, assigned a 3% run-off factor. Meaning that for every $100 on deposit, the bank must buy $3 worth of Treasuries as an offset, and it is free to invest the remaining 97% in loans or other more profitable investments.

This means that competition for deposits from consumers and small businesses just got more intense, which should generally be good news for customers. They should expect to see increased savings rates and incentives to hold both more cash and conduct more business at a specific bank, as it will be in the bank’s best interests to retain them and understand their spending habits.

The bad news begins outside of the realm of FDIC insured accounts. For all balances over the FDIC limits for the same customers, the run-off factor, which, all things being equal, has an inverse relationship with a bank’s profitability, jumps to 10%.

For larger Corporate customers, who tend to have operating (daily transaction) and non-operating (reserve) accounts, the run-off factor jumps to 25% on operating accounts and 40% on non-operating accounts. This makes large corporate customers somewhat less attractive.

The people that no one will want to bank with, from a run-off factor standpoint, are financial companies (think Insurance companies, small banks, etc.) who are presumed to have a run-off factor of 100%, meaning these companies, under Basel III liquidity rules, must be seen as ready to walk into the bank on any given day and withdraw all of their accounts.

In a way, the 100% run-off factor on financials makes sense, as it requires all large banks to hold Treasuries to backstop the accounts of financial companies. It is a “regulatory” guarantee that these companies will always be liquid.

The way around the 100% run-off factor for financials and other large institutions are accounts with covenants to provide the bank with at least 30 days notice before withdrawal. This type of notice requirement, in theory, gives the bank time to arrange its investments to be able to meet the cash outflow without impacting overall stressed cash outflows.

As one can imagine, Basel III will lead to a number of new banking products in terms of accounts and credit lines. Briefly, this is what consumers and companies can expect to see as January 1, 2015 approaches:

1. A dogfight for small, FDIC insured deposits.

2. Decreased access to business lines of credit, as the Treasuries will be the default reinvestment vehicle for banks as they attempt to sort out their daily Liquidity ratio.

3. Point 2 above means that low-interest rates on Treasuries are likely to be embedded for quite some time.

4. Deposit products which cannot be withdrawn with less than 30 days notice without steep penalties. One idea we have heard is a “perpetual 31 day time deposit,” meaning that the 30 day withdrawal notice requirement is embedded in the covenant, it is like an operating account that the customer has to give 30 days notice, like they would a landlord, to the bank before withdrawing.

As the Affordable Care Act has fundamentally changed the healthcare industry, Basel III will fundamentally change the banking industry. While its aim is to forever stabilize financial markets, its implementation may be the biggest threat that financial markets have seen since late 2008. Beyond that, it places the bedrock of finance firmly on the shoulders of sovereign bonds, which, despite being seen as completely liquid, hold a myriad of unknown risks.

Basel III, coming January 1, 2015. The time to prepare is running out, and the time for action is upon us.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: [email protected]

Key Indicators for April 18, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.03
Oil Price per Barrel: $104.30

Corn Price per Bushel: $4.94
10 Yr US Treasury Bond: 2.72%
Bitcoin price in US: $475.00
FED Target Rate: 0.09%
Gold Price Per Ounce: $1,294

MINT Perceived Target Rate*: 0.25%
Unemployment Rate: 6.7%
Inflation Rate (CPI): 0.2%
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 16,409
M1 Monetary Base: $2,704,700,000,000

M2 Monetary Base: $11,330,600,000,000

Posted in Economics, Personal Finance | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off