Gentlemen, Start Your Presses
In his Congressional testimony last week in Washington, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke took time to downplay the significance of the few dissenting voices on the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC). Those statements, combined with an even more dovish statement by Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen earlier this week, clearly reaffirm the Fed’s indefinite commitment to $85 billion of monthly quantitative easing. (It is surprising that those figures failed to invoke the attention drawn by the $85 billion in annual cuts detailed in the “sequester”). But the stock markets have gotten the message loud and clear and are setting records on a daily basis. The apparent triumphs of the Federal Reserve in pumping up stock and real estate prices, without triggering a sell-off in the dollar or easily visible inflation, have not been lost by observers around the world.
Many have dubbed the last decade or so to be an era of easy money. As it turns out, that characterization may have been premature. Based on the new crop of central bankers who are primed to take control of the world’s financial system, the age of truly easy money may be just getting started.
Many expect that when Bernanke’s term expires in January 2014, he will be succeeded by the dovish Yellen. But that’s just the beginning. In short order, a host of serial money printers will take up the reins at the world’s most important central banks.
In January of this year Canadian banker Mark Carney, a committed Keynesian, was selected to replace Mervyn King as the Governor of the Bank of England in July 2013. Despite a native population of some 63 million people to draw from, the UK’s so-called Conservative government has now, for the first time in its history, selected a foreigner to run the Bank. At a salary of some $1,200,000 a year, he will be earning more than that of the heads of the Fed and the ECB combined. Undoubtedly Carney can command such a salary because he can be relied upon to create synthetic Sterling along the lines of Bernanke. Already he is talking of increasing the UK’s two percent upper inflation limit.
In a further effort to distort the value of money, the Deputy Director of the Bank of England, Paul Tucker, spoke recently of his idea to engineer negative interest rates. All this is to hold reality at bay.
Plagued by over a decade of economic stagnation, Japan has recently elected Shinzo Abe as prime minister, who has virtually promised the most expansionist monetary policy in the developed world. Shinzo made good on his campaign promises by selecting Mr. Haruhiko Kuroda as the next Governor of the Bank of Japan. He is yet another major Keynesian monetary expansionist in the Bernanke mold. The likelihood of extraordinary policy moves in Japan increased with the subsequent nomination of Kikuo Iwata for deputy governor. This week Mr. Iwata told legislators that he favors revisions to Japanese law that would require the Bank of Japan to achieve inflation targets set by the government, or face revocation of its charter. With a national debt already accounting for more than 200 percent of GDP, Japan is prepared to go into uncharted territory.
At the ECB, the well-known Keynesian monetary expansionist and creator of limitless synthetic euros, Mario Draghi, remains firmly ensconced in office. Indeed, he appears to be overcoming German-inspired austerity measures in the Eurozone. Further, the so-called ‘Troika’ of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the ECB, appears to be retreating from its initial Germanic demands for economic austerity and stronger banks.
In retrospect, events of the past few months illustrate a serious spread of Bernanke’s policies across the entire developed world. I believe that we are headed for a period of massive asset booms, followed by a debt and bank collapse of unprecedented ferocity.
John Browne is Senior Market Strategist at Euro Pacific Capital.
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