You can’t accuse Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke of not living up to his nickname. Back in 2002, Bernanke delivered a speech entitled “Deflation: Making Sure ‘It’ Doesn’t Happen Here” in which he referenced a statement by economist Milton Friedman about fighting deflation by dropping money from a helicopter. Well, it might be time for a new nickname for Bernanke because what he did today was a lot more than drop money from a helicopter. Today the Federal Reserve announced that QE3 will begin on Friday, but it is going to be much different from QE1 and QE2. Both of those rounds of quantitative easing were of limited duration. This time, the quantitative easing is going to be open-ended. The Fed is going to buy 40 billion dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities per month until they have decided that the economy is in good enough shape to stop. For those that get confused by terms like “quantitative easing” and “mortgage-backed securities”, what the Federal Reserve is essentially saying is this: “We’re going to print a bunch of money and buy stuff for as long as we feel it is necessary.” In addition, the Federal Reserve has promised to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels all the way through mid-2015. The course that the Federal Reserve has set us on is utter insanity. Ben Bernanke can rain money down on us all he wants, but it is not going to do much at all to help the real economy. However, it will definitely hasten the destruction of the U.S. dollar.
And the Federal Reserve is apparently very eager to get QE3 going. Purchases of mortgage-backed securities are going to start on Friday.
In the coming months, hundreds of billions of dollars that the Federal Reserve has zapped into existence out of nothing will be injected into our financial system.
So what will happen to all of this new money?
If banks and financial institutions use that money to make loans then it could have somewhat of a positive impact on the economy in the short-term.
However, the truth is that it isn’t as if banks are hurting for cash to loan out. In fact, right now banks are already sitting on $1.6 trillion in excess reserves. Just like with the first two rounds of quantitative easing, a lot of the money from QE3 will likely end up being put on the shelf.
But the stock market loved the news because they know that the previous two rounds of quantitative easing have been great for the financial markets. On Thursday, the stock market soared to levels not seen since December 2007.
There is much rejoicing on Wall Street right now.
And this stock market bounce is great for Bernanke’s good buddy Barack Obama.
Obama nominated Bernanke to a second term as Fed Chairman, and this might be Bernanke’s way of paying him back.
But of course the Fed is supposed to be “above politics” so that would never happen, right?
The Federal Reserve essentially “crossed the Rubicon” today. No longer will quantitative easing be considered an “emergency measure”. Rather, it will now be considered just another “tool” that the Fed uses in the normal course of business.
Considering how vulnerable the U.S. dollar already is, announcing an “open-ended” round of quantitative easing is utter foolishness. According to the Fed, when you add the 40 billion dollars of new mortgage-backed security purchases per month to all of the other “easing” measures the Fed is continuing to do, the grand total is going to come to about 85 billion dollars a month. The following is from the statement that the Fed released earlier today….
To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee agreed today to increase policy accommodation by purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month. The Committee also will continue through the end of the year its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in June, and it is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities. These actions, which together will increase the Committee’s holdings of longer-term securities by about $85 billion each month through the end of the year, should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.
The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will, as always, take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.
So what does all of this mean?
I really like how one analyst put it when he described this announcement as a “I’m gonna ease till your eyes bleed kinda statement“.
The Fed also promised to keep interest rates at “exceptionally low levels” until mid-2015….
To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee also decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate are likely to be warranted at least through mid-2015.
It seems that whenever the U.S. economy gets into trouble, Bernanke and his friends at the Fed only have one prescription and it goes something like this….
“Print more money and promise to keep interest rates near zero even longer.”
Of course a lot of Republicans are quite disturbed that QE3 was announced with just a couple of months remaining in a very heated election battle.
Even big news organizations such as CNBC are commenting on this….
Though the Fed is ostensibly politically independent, the decision comes at a ticklish time with the presidential election less than two months away.
And without a doubt the mainstream media will be proclaiming this to be “good news” for the economy in the short-term.
But is QE3 really going to help the average person on the street?
Well, first let’s take a look at employment. We are told that one of the primary reasons for QE3 is jobs.
But did QE1 and QE2 create jobs?
The answer is clearly no.
As you can see from the chart below, the percentage of working age Americans with a job fell dramatically during the last recession and has not bounced back since that time despite all of the quantitative easing that has been done already….
So why try the same thing again when it did not work the first two times?
But what more quantitative easing is likely to do is to pump up stock market values because a lot of the money from QE3 is going to end up being put into stocks and other investments.
This is going to help the wealthy get even wealthier, and it is going to make the “wealth gap” between the rich and the poor even larger in America.
QE3 is also probably going to cause commodity prices to rise just like QE1 and QE2 did.
That means that you will be paying more for gasoline, food and other basic necessities.
So there may not be more jobs, but at least you will get the privilege of paying more for things.
The inflation that QE3 will cause will be particularly cruel for those on fixed incomes such as retirees.
None of the extra money from QE3 is going to go into their pockets, but they will have to pay more to heat their homes and fill up their shopping carts.
And the “exceptionally low interest rate” policy of the Federal Reserve is absolutely devastating for those that have saved for retirement and that are relying on interest income for their living expenses.
In short, quantitative easing is very good for the wealthy and it is very bad for the average man and woman on the street.
But what else would you expect from the Federal Reserve?
It is imperative that we educate the American people about the Federal Reserve and about how they are destroying our economy. For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “10 Things That Every American Should Know About The Federal Reserve“.
Perhaps the biggest danger from QE3 is that it could greatly hasten the day when the U.S. dollar ceases to be the reserve currency of the world.
The rest of the world is not stupid. They see that the Federal Reserve is now firing up the printing presses whenever they feel like it. They can see the games that we are playing with our currency.
Why should the rest of the world continue to use the U.S. dollar to trade with one another when the United States is constantly debasing it and playing games with its value?
As I wrote about the other day, China and Russia have been calling for a new reserve currency for the world for several years. They have been leading the charge to conduct international trade in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, and I have documented many of the major international agreements to move away from the U.S. dollar that have been made in the last couple of years.
The status of the U.S. dollar in the world has already been steadily slipping, and now Helicopter Ben Bernanke pulls this kind of nonsense.
We are handing the rest of the world an excuse to abandon the U.S. dollar on a silver platter.
And when the rest of the globe rejects the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency, the dollar will crash, the cost of living will increase dramatically, our standard of living will go way down and we will never fully recover from it.
So if you think that things are “bad” now, just wait until that happens.
The U.S. dollar is one of the best things that the U.S. economy still has going for it, and Helicopter Ben Bernanke is doing his best to absolutely destroy that.
What is your opinion of QE3? Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….
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Despite some rain, drought gets worse in Indiana and Ohio
AgAnswers | Updated: July 27, 2012
Even with some rain moving into Indiana and Ohio, both states continue to get drier, with parts of Indiana bearing the brunt of the drought.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Drought Monitor update on Thursday, a swath of west-central and southwestern Indiana fell into the worst intensity of dryness. Until last week, only a small area along the Ohio River near Evansville was in exceptional drought; now most counties from the southwestern-most tip of Indiana and extending to west-central counties are now in that stage. The rest of the state is experiencing moderate to extreme levels of drought.
“These exceptional drought conditions are the kind you see once every 50 years or longer,” said Ken Scheeringa, associate state climatologist for the Indiana State Climate Office, based at Purdue University.
Nearly all of Ohio is encompassed by moderate drought, but the western edge of the state has entered the severe category.
A high-pressure system has kept moisture from the Gulf of Mexico from entering much of the Midwest, and the same system is now generating what Scheeringa referred to as a “ring of fire” phenomenon. Thunderstorms must travel around this Midwestern high pressure system in a circular pattern, moving from Colorado northward into Minnesota, and then southeastward toward Indiana and Ohio. As a result precipitation misses the worst drought-stricken areas of Indiana.
Scheeringa said normal to slightly above-normal temperatures and rainfall were expected for parts of the Corn Belt in the coming 8-14 days, but he cautioned that it would do little more than hold drought conditions steady.
Instead, the area would need rain from a tropical storm or hurricane in the nation’s South to greatly improve drought conditions. But no such storms were in sight.
“We very likely will see drought continue into late-October,” Scheeringa said.
Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt said that while the conditions already have taken an emotional and costly toll on the region’s field-crop farmers, livestock producers ultimately would bear some of the worst losses.
Crop insurance and high grain prices are likely to salvage incomes of crop producers who elected for coverage and those who have grain to harvest. Livestock producers, however, will be left to fight for short feed supplies – something Hurt said many couldn’t afford.
Both Purdue Extension and Ohio State Extension have compiled free, Web-based resources for dealing with drought. They are:
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:35 pm
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The Buenos Aires grains exchange lowered the bar further on Argentina’s soybean and corn harvests, saying a crop tested by drought and frost was now suffering from floods.
The Bolsa de Cereales cut by 1.1m tonnes to 39.9m tonnes its forecast for the soybean harvest in the world’s third ranked exporter, the exchange’s second downgrade this month.
The cut, which put a year-on-year fall of 18.9% in Argentine soybean production on the cards, reflected both a continuing drop in yields and rains last weekend which brought flooding to much of the major producing province of Buenos Aires.
The rains brought "flooding over a wide area", to a "significant" number of hectares of farmland, estimated at 30% of the 500,000 hectares or so still to be harvested in the centre and west of the province.
The inundation extend a cycle of weather threats which slashed hopes in Argentina, which had initially looked set for bumper crops.
‘Crop is in trouble’
The downgrade took the Bolsa estimate well below those of the Argentine farm ministry, which has pegged the crop at 41.5m tonnes, and the US Department of Agriculture, which has a 42.5m-tonne figure.
Oil World on Tuesday warned it may cut its own estimate to 40.0m tonnes, citing continued abandonment of sowings, although citing early-2012 drought rather than the recent rains.
"The soybean crop is in trouble in northern Argentina," the influential analysis group said.
The Bolsa de Cereales, which estimated that harvest was now 89.3% complete, up six points on the week said that the yield had fallen to 22.1 quintals a hectare, down 0.6 quintals a hectare over the week.
For corn, the exchange cut its forecast by 500,000 tonnes to 19.3m tonnes, again citing water damage and lower recent yields.
The government estimates the crop at 20.1m tonnes, and the USDA at 21.5m tonnes.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri May 25, 2012 12:11 am
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Posted on 15th April 2012 by Administrator
John Mauldin, Spain
John Mauldin usually tries to put a positive spin on our economic plight. Not today. Mauldin and Mish both think that Spain will be the spark that sets off the European implosion. As I and many others have been saying for the last two years, the bankers and politicians of the world have solved nothing. They have just papered over an epic debt problem with more debt. They have only insured that the coming collapse will be far worse than it needed to be. So it goes.
The War for Spain
In my book Endgame, co-author Jonathan Tepper and I wrote a chapter detailing the problems that Spain was facing. It was obvious to us as we wrote in late 2010 that there really was no easy exit for Spain. The end would come in a torrent of misery and tears. Tepper actually grew up in a drug rehab center in Madrid – as a kid, his best friends were recovering junkies. (For the record, he has written a fascinating story of his early life and is looking for a publisher.) His Spanish is thus impeccable, and he used to get asked to be on Spanish programs all the time. Until the day came when the government created a list of five people, including our Jonathan, who were basically named “Enemies of Spain,” and pointedly suggested they not be quoted or invited onto any more programs.
As it turns out, the real enemy was the past government. We knew (and wrote) that the situation was worse than the public data revealed, but until the new government came to power and started to disclose the true condition of the country, we had no real idea. The prior government had cooked the books. So far, it seems it even managed to do so without the help of Goldman Sachs (!)
In about ten days I will be sending you a detailed analysis of all this, courtesy of some friends, but let’s tease out some of the highlights. True Spanish debt-to-GDP is not 60% but closer to 90%, and perhaps more when you count the various and sundry local-government debts guaranteed by the federal government, most of which will simply not be paid. Spanish banks are miserably underwater, and that is with write-offs and mark to market on debts that totals not even half of what it should be. If Spanish housing drops as much relative to its own bubble as US housing has so far (and it will, if not more), then valuations will drop 50%. The level of overbuilding was stupendous, with one home built for every new every person as the population grew. We know that unemployment is 23%, with youth unemployment over 50%. Etc, etc. We could spend 50 pages (which is what I will get you access to) detailing the dire distress that is Spain.
Which brings us to this week. It was only a few weeks ago that most everyone, including your humble analyst, thought that the ECB had bought a little time with its “shock and awe” €1-trillion LTRO. Lots of analysis said there would now be at least a year to put programs in place to deal with the coming crisis.
Yet we may now be fast approaching the Bang! moment when the markets simply refuse to believe in the firepower that whatever governmental entities can muster. It happened with Greece, as it has in all past debt crises. Things go along more or less swimmingly until, as Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart so articulately detail in This Time is Different, we wake up one morning to find that Mr. Market has seemingly lost all interest in funding a country at a level of interest rates that is credibly sustainable. When interest rates ran to 15% for Greece, even arithmetically challenged European politicians could understand that Greece had no hope of ever paying off its debt.
When rates rose last year to almost 7% for Italy and 6% for Spain, before the ECB let loose the hounds of monetization, they were approaching the limits of sustainability. Rates came back down as the ECB either bought directly or engineered the purchase of the bonds of the two countries. But now the LTRO effect appears to have worn off, and yesterday interest rates for Spanish ten-year bonds climbed again to 5.99%. There is a large auction for ten-year Spanish bonds next week, which the market is clearly anticipating with a bit of concern. Meanwhile, Italian interest rates are not rising in lock step, which shows that the anxiety is now clearly directed at Spain. Ho-hum, move along folks, nothing to see here in Rome.
(What follows now is a mix of the facts as I read them and speculation on my part. I admit I may be reading more into the information, as I squint at it at 3 AM, than is justified. But then again, there is a substantial amount of history that suggests I am not totally off base…)
Spain Goes “All In”
I came across this tidbit from typicallyspanish.com, and my antennae started to twitch (hat tip Joan McCullough). The key is the second paragraph. (Hacienda is the common name of the Spanish tax ministry, otherwise known as the Agencia Estatal de Administración Tributaria.)
“Spain led the loss in the number of self-employed workers in Europe in 2011. One in two of the self-employed to lose their jobs in the EU over the year was Spanish. Seven out of ten self-employed in Spain do not employ anyone else. Over 2011 Europe lost a total of 203,200 self-employed workers, 0.6% fewer than in 2010.
“Following the news that cash business transactions over 2500 € are to be banned, Hacienda has said they will not fine anyone who admits that they have been making payments of more than 2,500 € over the previous three months. The cash limit is part of the Governments anti-fraud plans which have been approved today, Friday. Those Spaniards who have a bank account outside the country now face the legal obligation of having to inform Hacienda about the account. The Government hopes its anti-fraud measures will bring in 8.171 billion €.”
My fellow US citizens will be saying to themselves, “So what? We have to report our foreign bank accounts, and any large cash transactions are flagged.” But gentle reader, this is much different. This is new law for Spain, basically currency control writ large, and bells have to be going off all over Europe.
First of all, note that Greece never tried to require its citizens to report cash transactions or to list foreign deposits. This is the new Spanish government revealing serious desperation. The government’s back is to the wall. They have to know they will not collect the taxes they need to generate, but are going to try anyway to demonstrate to the rest of Europe (read Germany) that they are doing everything they can.
In a side note, on Wednesday, Spain’s interior minister introduced new measures to thwart plots using “urban guerrilla” warfare methods to incite protests. And the local papers are printing op-eds by economists talking about how the effort to comply with German austerity demands will just make the economy worse, and that the government is not taking into account the resolve of labor unions to oppose them. “Germany is the problem.” It pains me to say this (truly it does), but this is what we were writing about Greece, not all that long ago. We are seeing footage of demonstrations, verging on riots. It is a familiar pattern.
Second, let’s review what I wrote a month ago. I noted that the LTRO money was being used by Spanish banks to buy Spanish government debt (and Italian banks were buying Italian government debt, etc.). The intention was to help the two countries specifically and Europe in general to finance their debts and allow banks to shore up their capital as part of that effort. But what that does is yield the unintended consequence of making a breakup of the eurozone easier, as it helps get Spanish and Italian debt off the books of German and French banks.
The only reason Germany and France, et al., cared about Greece is that their banks had so much Greek debt on their balance sheets, in many cases more than enough to render them insolvent. Bailing out the banks directly would have been costly, so better (thought the European leaders) to do it with bailouts from funds created with guarantees from the various governments (which is a backdoor way to get it from taxpayers) and the European Central Bank. A crisis was avoided and there was a more or less orderly Greek default – which anybody who bothered to look at the math saw coming well in advance.
A further side note: Spanish-bank borrowing from the European Central Bank doubled last month, “revealing a dangerous dependence on emergency funding that on Friday triggered renewed turmoil in financial markets.” (The Telegraph) And the Spanish stock market is down some 30% over the past year.)
So, in the effort to make sure that everyone pays their taxes and to stop tax fraud, the Spanish government is going to find out which of its citizens have moved their money out of Spain. And let’s be clear, money has been flying out of the banks of Spain and Portugal (and to some extent Italy) as it did, and still is, in Greece.
And it will be easier to track that offshore money than you think. Some people, I am sure, moved their money into cash and then out of the country. But others simply wired the money, thus leaving a trail. Spanish banking regulators can easily require they be given that information, and what bank will say no to the regulators? Spain does not collect taxes from its citizens if they are residents of a foreign country (as the US does), but it can tax everyone who lives in Spain. And if you live in Spain and decide to diversify your risk among a few other countries? I am not sure of Spanish tax law, but I reasonably assume you are supposed to report all your income from whatever source. (Otherwise there would be no one investing with Spanish banks, brokerages, and investment advisors –if it were legal not to report foreign investments, then everyone would invest outside of the country.)
Let me hazard a modest prediction: We will see a rather sudden and substantial need for physical cash in certain other “peripheral” countries, as now their citizens may not want to leave trails as they go about opening foreign bank accounts. What is to keep Italy from doing as Spain has done? Or Portugal? Or France? Or Germany?
Let me be clear about something. I am not suggesting that people should not pay their taxes. If you choose to live in a country, you should pay the taxes that are required. What Spain is trying to do is simply make sure that all their citizens pay the proper amount of taxes. If there was already 100% compliance, there would be no need for new regulations like Spain’s. And the same goes for the US. Our penalties are rather stiff for not paying taxes, more so, I’m guessing, than in most of Europe. I have on more than one occasion noted that the national sport of Italy is tax avoidance.
My friends in Spain tell me a lot of business is done in cash. But that is the case in the US and almost everywhere I go. There are a lot of (ahem) “independent” taxi drivers, services, etc. that do not take anything but cash. Maybe they report everything, but I do not bother to ask. (When I was a waiter in college, did I report all of my tips? I was required to report a minimum amount of income for each hour worked, but did I report everything? Since it has been 40 years and the statute of limitations has run out by now, I might admit to missing a few dollars here and there.)
I imagine there are quite a few Spanish citizens who are not sleeping well this weekend. And more than a few people tossing and turning in other countries as well. If the next month comes and goes without any sign of unusual cash movement in Europe, then I will owe the peoples of peripheral Europe a big apology for doubting their willingness to pay their taxes. Or maybe it will turn out that they were better at “avoidance” than your average American, and planned their movements far in advance…
Let’s get back to the central point. Spain is too big to fail and too big to save. The bond markets are clearly getting nervous, much sooner than was planned. Spain is clearly attempting to demonstrate that it will do everything in its power to comply with the new European austerity rules. Yet Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has warned that the situation has created “a vicious circle that strangles Spain.”
Rajoy delivered a strongly worded speech to parliament, insisting that it was “as clear as day” that Spain would not need a Greek-style bailout. But in recognition that the country is losing market confidence, he appealed to other European leaders to be “careful with their comments” and remember that “what is good for Spain is good for the eurozone.” (The London Telegraph)
One can look at the amount of money Spain will need to refinance in the coming year and look at their financial ability, then look at how much can possibly be raised by the European community, even under the proposed new structures, and readily come to the conclusion that there is simply not enough money to save Spain if the market goes Bang!
The only possible solution I see is for the European Central Bank to step in with some new program. ECB President Mario Draghi has demonstrated a marked ability to come up with new, creative ways to kick the can down the road. Finding the money to bail out Spain is hopefully in his book of tricks. As fellow central banker Ben Bernanke has noted, Mario has a printing press. And the LTRO showed he knows where it is and how to use it.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sun Apr 15, 2012 2:25 pm
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Argentine Farming emergency committee meets this week to address extreme drought
The Argentine Agriculture Ministry has summoned the Committee on Farming Emergency and anticipated it would engage in “surgical work” in order to reach “all areas of the farming sector” suffering from extreme drought.
Agriculture minister Norberto Yahuar ordered Institutional Affairs secretary Haroldo Lebed to summon the Committee for a meeting next Thursday, in order to carefully analyze every situation, since drought affects every region of Argentina in a different way.
“Our goal is to keep working after our first meeting in order to evaluate which are the best mechanisms that can be put in place right now. We will engage in surgical work and reach all the affected areas and farmers that need it the most” explained Yahuar.
“We’re facing a drought with anomalies. There’s been some heavy rain in some places, and no rain at all in others, according to INTA (National Institute for Farming Technology) reports. This means we have to work fast in order to help whoever needs it the most” Yahuar added.
The Ministry of Agriculture will be working along with the INTA in order to visit the areas affected by drought and asses the situation. “We must work together with tangible policies that support farmers,” the minister.
However a farming group has warned that the dry weather hurting soybean and corn crops in Argentina may cause more damage than the 2008-2009 drought that was the worst in 70 years.
The current spell of hot, dry weather covers more area and started earlier in the season than the previous drought, the Argentine Association of Regional Consortia for Agricultural Experimentation said in an e-mailed statement today.
That contradicts the INTA reports which are basically “optimistic” the weather situation will improve. While precipitation levels in December were “way below average,” the drought can “in no way be compared to what happened in 2008,” Carlos Casamiquela, the institute’s head, said in an e-mailed statement.
Corn and soybean crops are suffering after weeks of low rainfall in Argentina and southern Brazil because of the La Niña weather pattern. Argentina’s soybean output plunged by almost a third to 32 million tons in the 2008-2009 season from 46.2 million tons a year earlier.
Farmers were forecast to produce about 53 million tons of soybeans this season, then-Agriculture Minister Julian Dominguez said Nov. 29.
The situation is “critical” for corn in parts of Buenos Aires because of the lack of rain and lack of soil moisture, the Agriculture Ministry said in its last weekly crop report.
The corn crop is 88% planted, soybeans are 89% planted and wheat is 91% harvested, according to the report.
“The situation could improve slightly if there is significant rainfall over the next few days,” the ministry said, “though the probability of that phenomenon happening is low or none”.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:06 am
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