Archive for the ‘Economic Recovery’ Category
Perhaps the “recovery” is a Mind Trick played on the weak-minded.
Those with vested interests in the Status Quo tout data that supports the claim the “recovery” is now “self-sustaining,” meaning that the economy is now expanding fast enough to fuel new growth. In this view, the Federal Reserve’s extraordinary policy interventions (zero interest rate policy, $23 trillion in support provided to the global banking system, 3.4% mortgage rates, etc.) and the Federal government’s unprecedented fiscal stimulus (borrow and blow $1.3 trillion a year) have done their job; the economy is now “self-sustaining,” meaning that it can continue growing as Federal deficits shrink and the Fed trims its quantitative easing policies.
The data favored by the Status Quo interests are GDP (which rises when the government borrows and blows trillions of dollars), housing sales (still low compared to 2006, but better than 2011) and consumer confidence, which is hitting multi-year highs. Consumer confidence is a quasi-quantitative measure of the critical “animal spirits” that Keynesians look for to drive more borrowing and spending: if you feel wealthier for whatever reason, that confidence arouses your “animal spirits” to rush out and buy something, preferably a house and a car.
Those looking at fundamentals such as household income/debt and sales see more of a Mind Trick being played on the weak-minded. If you can convince me the economy is expanding and inflation is rising, I will be more likely to risk borrowing and spending more than I can afford. The “real” economy might be sputtering, but my belief in the “recovery” will support my confidence in the wisdom of leveraging more of my (shrinking) income into debt-based consumption.
This debt-based consumption (according to the Keynesian Cargo Cult) will spark so much “growth” that the expansion will become self-sustaining. Corporations will see the rise in sales and become confident enough to make capital investments and hire more workers, who will then spend their paychecks consuming more stuff, and so on.
So the task of the Status Quo shifts from actually expanding the economy to persuading us the economy is expanding. If the Mind Trick works, then maybe the unleashed “animal spirits” will actually spur real-economy growth.
It appears a certain number of buyers are convinced housing has bottomed, and this confidence (misplaced or not, no one yet knows) has persuaded them to buy real estate. This has indeed fueled a self-sustaining growth cycle in some areas, as people waiting for the bottom are jumping in, pushing prices higher and drawing in more converts.
On the other hand, if household incomes continue weakening, then the confidence of all those real estate investors in rising rents and 100% occupancy might not align with reality as well as they anticipate.
All debt and consumption is based on income. Consider these charts:
Notice that the only age bracket with rising incomes is the 65 and over cohort; everyone younger than 65 has seen their income slashed.
As I have observed many times before, the middle class filled this gap between rising costs and stagnating wages with debt.
Income for every age group other than 65+ seniors has declined sharply:
The income of those in their peak earning years 45-54 have been slammed:
With debt levels still high and income sagging, where is the higher income needed to support higher debt and spending? Lowering the interest rate has enabled higher debt, but now that interest rates are negative (below the rate of inflation),they can’t go any lower: the Status Quo has run out of “stimulus” and now must rely on manipulation and artifice–Mind Tricks–to persuade people a stumbling, stagnant economy is growing robustly enough that they should risk their future prosperity on debt-based consumption in the present.
Self-sustaining recovery or Mind Trick? We may not know for some time if the Mind Trick worked or not, but the real economy could rise up and shatter the illusion at any time.
Charles Hugh Smith – Of Two Minds
Submitted by James Bianco of Bianco Research
• The Wall Street Journal – Fed Proposes Tool to Drain Extra Cash
The Federal Reserve on Monday proposed selling interest-bearing term deposits to banks, a move the U.S. central bank would make when it decides to drain some of the liquidity it pumped into the economy during the financial crisis. The new facility is intended to help ensure that the Fed can implement an exit strategy before a banking system awash with Fed money triggers inflation. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has described term deposits as “roughly analogous to the certificates of deposit that banks offer to their customers.” Under the plan, the Fed would issue the term deposits to banks, potentially at several maturities up to one year. That would encourage banks to park reserves at the Fed rather than lending them out, taking money out of the lending stream.The central bank said the proposal “has no implications for monetary policy decisions in the near term.” “The Federal Reserve has addressed the financial market turmoil of the past two years in part by greatly expanding its balance sheet and by supplying an unprecedented volume of reserves to the banking system,” it said. “Term deposits could be part of the Federal Reserve’s tool kit to drain reserves, if necessary, and thus support the implementation of monetary policy.” Michael Feroli, an economist at J.P. Morgan Chase, said “it’s another step forward in the exit-strategy infrastructure, but it’s been well flagged in advance, so it’s not a surprise.” When Fed officials decide to tighten credit, they would likely use the term-deposits program ahead of — or in conjunction with — adjusting their traditional policy lever, the target for the federal funds interest rate at which banks lend to each other overnight. The Fed also said Monday that its balance sheet rose slightly to $2.2 trillion in the week ending Dec. 23. The Fed’s total portfolio of loans and securities has more than doubled since the beginning of the financial crisis. As part of its efforts to fight the downturn, the central bank is buying $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, a program it says will end in March. The Fed now holds $910.43 billion in mortgage-backed securities, it said Monday.
• Bloomberg.com – Fed Proposes Term-Deposit Program to Drain Reserves
The Federal Reserve today proposed a program to sell term deposits to banks to help mop up some of the $1 trillion in excess reserves in the U.S. banking system. The plan, subject to a 30-day comment period, “has no implications for monetary policy decisions in the near term,” the central bank said in a statement released in Washington. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is preparing tools and strategies to shrink or neutralize the inflationary impact from the biggest monetary expansion in U.S. history. Central bankers are also conducting tests of reverse repurchase agreements and discussing the possibility of asset sales. Term deposits may help the central bank “assert operational control over the federal funds rate” once officials decide to lift the overnight bank lending rate from the current range of zero to 0.25 percent, said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP LLC in Jersey City, New Jersey. Excess cash “would be locked up” rather than put downward pressure on the federal funds rate, he said.The Fed won’t begin raising interest rates until the third quarter of 2010, according to the median estimate of 62 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News in the first week of December.
• The Financial Times – Fed to offer term deposits to banks
The US Federal Reserve plans to offer term deposits to banks as part of its “exit strategy” from the exceptionally loose monetary policy used to fight the recession. In a consultation paper released on Monday the Fed said it planned to change its rules so that it could pay interest on money locked up at the central bank for a defined period. The Fed added that the well-flagged rule change – designed to allow it more influence over the $1,100bn in excess reserves held by banks – was part of “prudent planning. . . and has no implications for monetary policy decisions in the near term”. It is one of a number of measures that has been outlined over the past few months by Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed, as an option to drain liquidity from the financial system in a manner that protects the economic recovery while heading off the threat of inflation.
• The Federal Reserve – Notice of proposed rulemaking; request for public comment.
The Board is requesting public comment on proposed amendments to Regulation D, Reserve Requirements of Depository Institutions, to authorize the establishment of term deposits. Term deposits are intended to facilitate the conduct of monetary policy by providing a tool for managing the aggregate quantity of reserve balances. Institutions eligible to receive earnings on their balances in accounts at Federal Reserve Banks (”eligible institutions”) could hold term deposits and receive earnings at a rate that would not exceed the general level of short-term interest rates. Term deposits would be separate and distinct from those maintained in an institution’s master account at a Reserve Bank (”master account”) as well as from those maintained in an excess balance account. Term deposits would not satisfy required reserve balances or contractual clearing balances and would not be available to clear payments or to cover daylight or overnight overdrafts. The proposal also would make minor amendments to the posting rules for intraday debits and credits to master accounts as set forth in the Board’s Policy on Payment System Risk to address transactions associated with term deposits.
We believe the proposal of this new tool signals the Federal Reserve is still flailing around trying to look busy so everyone is assured they have a plan. The fact is they have no plan and are still throwing everything on the wall to see what sticks. From the November 4 FOMC minutes:
Participants expressed a range of views about how the Committee might use its various tools in combination to foster most effectively its dual objectives of maximum employment and price stability. As part of the Committee’s strategy for eventual exit from the period of extraordinary policy accommodation, several participants thought that asset sales could be a useful tool to reduce the size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet and lower the level of reserve balances, either prior to or concurrently with increasing the policy rate. In their view, such sales would help reinforce the effectiveness of paying interest on excess reserves as an instrument for firming policy at the appropriate time and would help quicken the restoration of a balance sheet composition in which Treasury securities were the predominant asset. Other participants had reservations about asset sales–especially in advance of a decision to raise policy interest rates–and noted that such sales might elicit sharp increases in longer-term interest rates that could undermine attainment of the Committee’s goals. Furthermore, they believed that other reserve management tools such as reverse RPs and term deposits would likely be sufficient to implement an appropriate exit strategy and that assets could be allowed to run off over time, reflecting prepayments and the maturation of issues. Participants agreed to continue to evaluate various potential policy-implementation tools and the possible combinations and sequences in which they might be used. They also agreed that it would be important to develop communication approaches for clearly explaining to the public the use of these tools and the Committee’s exit strategy more broadly.
The Federal Reserve first hinted at term deposits almost two months ago, although exactly what they were talking about was left vague until now.
Remember that the Federal Reserve has to withdraw over a trillion dollars of excess liquidity. The easiest way to do this is to sell hundreds of billions of MBS, Treasuries and agencies. As the bold highlighted passage above implies, they are scared to death of doing this, so they propose complicated schemes to withdraw liquidity like reverse repos and now term deposits.
We have argued that these schemes will not work. They cannot be done in the sizes necessary or enough to even matter. The Federal Reserve could possibly drain tens of billions of dollars via these schemes, but collectively that will amount to a rounding error when the goal is to withdraw over a trillion in excess reserves.
The Federal Reserve does not want to admit defeat, so they continue pursuing these strategies that will not make a difference. We believe they also do it to “look busy” as they are taking measurements and notes as to how to withdraw all the liquidity they have pumped in. They think this will give the market comfort that someone is on the case and that inflation expectations will not get out of control. The market is not buying this. Inflation expectations, s measured by TIPS inflation breakeven rates, are going vertical.
As to term deposits, the Federal Reserve is proposing an illiquid short term instrument for banks to invest in. Banks would buy these instruments and “lock up” the excess reserves they now have. This would have the same effect as draining excess reverses. The maturities of these instruments would be as long as one year.
It is unclear if there will be a secondary market for these instruments, and if so, how liquid it will be.
Without a secondary market, buyers of these instruments face huge reinvestment risk. The future course of short term interest rates is arguably to the most uncertain it has been in decades. Will the Federal Reserve stay near zero until 2012 or will they be forced to raise rates in the first half of 2010? Given all this uncertainty, who wants to lock up money in something that cannot be sold before maturity? This is especially true given the Federal Reserve’s statement that the “maximum-allowable rate for each auction of term deposits would be no higher than the general level of short- term interest rates.”
The general level of short-term interest rates is set on known instruments that have generations of history and active secondary markets. If the Federal Reserve wants to introduce a new, and wholly unknown instrument with an uncertain secondary market and offer no interest rate premium, then we cannot see how this will work beyond a token amount after some arm twisting to get them sold. The Federal Reserve will have to offer a premium for uncertainty and illiquidy to make this fly in any major way, something they said they will not do.
Complicated Is Simple
The Federal Reserve owns 80% of AIG. With each passing day it looks like the Federal Reserve is adopting AIG Financial Product’s business practices. That is, when faced with a financial problem, they create complicated tools (like CDS). When critics says these new products will not work, tell them they do not know what they are talking about and create even more complicated tools to dazzle everyone. Once the tools are so complicated that no one understands them, you will be hailed as an expert with no peer. You might even be named TIME’s Person of the Year.
From The Daily Capitalist.
Since you give away stuff for free, I hope you aren’t a socialist and ignore my wish list during the annual potlach. By the way, it seems that the Obama Administration is way ahead of you in giving out free stuff to everyone. I hope you can catch up.
I think I’ve been a pretty good boy this year. I have regularly bitten my tongue in my commentary so as not to be accused of being a flamer. I don’t think I’ve defamed anyone. And I try to write as much original material as possible to avoid being labeled a “scraper” (lifting stuff off the Net and publishing it under my own name). And, I haven’t sold out my opinions for mere money. For a blogger, that’s a pretty good record.
Here’s my wish list. I couldn’t find where to post it on Amazon, so here goes:
1. Kill The Bill
No, not the Uma Thurman thing. I’m talking about the health care “reform” bill going through Congress right now. If your magical powers extend that far, please put economic sense into our politicians’ collective heads that government control over the system is not a way to “save money” or create “efficiency.”
2. Put in the Fix
Instead of eliminating market forces in health care, please convince Congress to fix it by peeling back the convoluted rules and regulations that have screwed it up in the first place. Suggest these four little things we could try first that actually would work, save billions, and cover more people:
Give Medicare enrollees a voucher and the freedom to choose any health plan on the market;
Give workers control over their health care dollars with “large” health savings accounts which would allow them to purchase secure health coverage from any source;
Break up state monopolies on insurance and allow insurance companies to compete across state lines; and
Block-grant Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to prevent massive waste and encourage states to target resources to the truly needy.
3. Turn the Sausage Makers into Sausage
I understand it’s Christmas and it would be kind of negative to wish political ill fortune on someone, but, there’s this especially despicable sentator, Ben Nelson, that I would like for you to arrange to catch him with a hooker or taking a bribe. Whatever you think would work, Santa. Make sure there are tapes. I have lots more names, but I’d be happy with Ben.
4. Firing Suggestions
Please arrange for Obama to fire Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, Timmy Geithner, and Christina Romer.
5. Hiring Suggestions
To replace the above, how about Ron Paul at the Fed, and the following economic advisers: Walter Block, Russ Roberts, and Joseph Salerno. They are all fine economic scholars and would steer our President in the right direction.
6. Freeze Congress
Don’t let Congress pass any more bills until they’ve all read, and discussed with the No. 5 guys, Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt, the best little book on economics, ever. Televise it.
7. Bring Back the Real Constitution
Please have Obama appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court. Nominees who understand natural law, and that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments actually mean something. Maybe we’d get our individual sovereignty back.
8. Make Work is No Work
Let Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid see the folly of the American American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a useless $787 billion bill that is nothing other than intergenerational theft. Someone has to pay for it and I’m afraid it will be my children, grandchildren, and ten generations of my great-grandchildren.
9. Beautiful Sunsets
Require Congress to sunset every spending law they pass. You know how they promise that a program will be very effective and that it will only cost so much? Make them prove it, say every two years. If the bill fails to cure the perceived ill, get rid of it. If the program exceeds its budget, get rid of it. It will also provide us with a handy voting guide at election time.
10. Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom
Sprinkle some free market magic dust on the economics departments of our major universities. Maybe that will help the sheep break from Keynesian orthodoxy and actually begin to think.
Thank you, Dear Santa. I’m forever hopeful.
As my readers know, every so often I really get fed up with what comes out of Washington (Our Nation’s Capital) and feel the need to vent. My recent irritation is a letter Christina Romer, the president of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, published in the Wall Street Journal.
The letter is an apologia for the economic policies she and Summers and Geithner have been recommending to the president. She seems like such a nice lady, and she’s the wife of economist David Romer. Both were econ professors at Berkeley and both studied economics at MIT. But …
Here are some excerpts from her letter, with my comments:
Within a month of taking office, the administration had announced its Financial Stability Plan and signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Recovery Act helped stem the decline in spending caused by consumers and businesses reeling from the fall in asset prices and the drying up of credit. Real GDP, which had fallen at a 6.4% annual rate in the first quarter of 2009, began to grow again just two quarters later. …
She seriously believes this. But she has a slight problem with the cause and effect, post hoc ergo propter hoc*, thingie. That is, there is no evidence, theoretical or empirical, that the Recovery Act did anything positive or lasting. Even assuming Keynesian stimulus works, the government hadn’t spent enough money to make it work according to the Keynesian formula. At least that’s what Paul Krugman said. Whatever, no one has ever offered any proof that such stimulus works.
And, as far as I know, PCE (consumer spending) is still very low, asset prices are still declining, and credit is worse.
We’ve already seen from the Recovery Act that spending on infrastructure—everything from roads and bridges to schools and municipal buildings—is an effective way to put people back to work while creating lasting investments that raise future productivity. …
Yadda, yadda, yadda. Again more spending on things the government wants, not the things that the market wants. The jobs are already fizzling. See this excellent article in the WSJ, ironically published on the same day as Mrs. Romer’s piece. The gist is that when the government money ends, the jobs dry up.
Subsequently the president pushed for the Cash for Clunkers program that was successful in boosting demand and job creation. …
All this did was to junk a bunch of good cars, fill the pockets of auto dealers, and appease the UAW. Auto sales are already declining again. It just accelerated future sales of people who would have bought cars anyway.
[A]bout a month ago the president announced the latest in a series of measures to encourage banks to lend to small businesses. …
As we all know credit is still shrinking, not growing. They have tried every trick in the Keynesian book to loosen credit but to no avail. I’m sure this new legislation will be different.
[I]n early November the president signed into law a measure that would provide relief and spur job creation by adding additional weeks of unemployment insurance, cutting taxes for businesses, and expanding and extending the home-buyer tax credit. …
That must have worked really fast, because unemployment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dropped from 10.2% to 10% in November. Wow, that’s great legislation. But, as we all know, Things Are Not What They Seem. As David Rosenberg pointed out in one of his reports, the government stats look funny because they are so different from what ADP reported.
Despite these positive developments, the job market remains very weak. … American businesses appear hesitant to hire, and are producing more with fewer workers. …
Didn’t she just say that things are getting better?
Tomorrow [the President] will convene a meeting of business and labor leaders, small-business owners, economists and community representatives to discuss our ideas and solicit others for accelerating hiring. … [W]e need to harness the private sector, bringing large and small firms in off the sidelines to boost job creation. …
This is the part that really upset me. First, this is a typical political move. “Let’s all get together and come up with some great ideas!” No offense to the community organizers out there, but getting a bunch of people in a room like this gets nowhere. The best thing they could do is cancel all meetings, and get the hell out of the way.
But what really got me was the “harness the private sector” comment. I hope she didn’t mean it in the way I’m thinking, but if she didn’t then it’s even worse because she doesn’t realize the implications of her policies. When government gets together with business and labor to create policies for political benefit, it is called fascism, or national socialism. The words she used were rather telling: a “harness” is not something I would want to be in. You know who has the whip.
While the words seem innocent, it is all about losing our freedoms. Here’s the conclusion from a piece I wrote about the takeover of GM (in homage to Ayn Rand):
Sometimes it’s hard to see what is happening in front of your eyes. It seems rather benign and logical when you read about it, but it’s not. Nationalizing GM is just good old fashioned fascism–just like what happened in Italy in the 1920s and ‘30s … And now us. If you think I’m exaggerating, it’s probably because you think everything the government does is OK because we’re having a crisis. As Wesley Mouch said in Atlas Shrugged, “We’ve got to act!” That’s how we are losing our freedom, by a thousand cuts.
*Since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one.
Treasury Department Releases Text of Letter from Secretary Geithner
to Hill Leadership on Administration’s Exit Strategy for TARP
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury released the
text of identical letters sent today from Secretary Tim Geithner to
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid outlining the
Administration’s exit strategy for the Troubled Asset Relief Program
(TARP) established by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008
(EESA). The text of the letter to Speaker Pelosi follows.
December 9, 2009
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Madam Speaker:
I am writing to update you on the status of the Obama
Administration’s financial policies, including programs initiated under
the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) established by the Emergency
Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA), the results they have
achieved, the challenges ahead, and our plan for exiting TARP.
These policies are working. When the Obama Administration took
office, the financial system was extremely fragile and the economy was
contracting sharply. The Administration’s financial and economic
policies have helped to shore up confidence in our financial system.
Credit is starting to flow again to consumers and businesses, and the
economy is growing. Further, private capital is replacing public
capital in our major institutions.
As a result of improved financial conditions and careful stewardship
of the program, losses on TARP investments are likely to be
significantly lower than previously expected. We now expect a positive
return from the government’s investments in banks. These banks will
soon have repaid nearly half of the TARP funds they received. We also
expect to recover all but $42 billion of the $364 billion in TARP funds
disbursed in FY2009. Further, we plan to use significantly less than
the full $700 billion in EESA authority. As a result, we expect that
TARP will cost taxpayers at least $200 billion less than was projected
in the August Mid-Session Review of the President’s Budget.
But significant challenges remain. Too many American families,
homeowners, and small businesses still face severe financial pressure.
Although the economy is recovering, foreclosures are increasing, and
unemployment is unacceptably high. Businesses are still cautious in
the face of uncertainty about the strength of the recovery, and many
small businesses face very difficult credit conditions. Although bank
lending standards are starting to ease, many categories of bank lending
continue to contract. This contraction has hit small businesses very
hard because they rely heavily on such lending, and do not have the
ability to substitute credit from securities issuance. Commercial real
estate losses also weigh heavily on many small banks, impairing their
ability to extend new loans.
Further, the recovery of our financial system remains incomplete.
And near-term shocks to that system could undermine the economic
recovery we have seen to date.
Exit Strategy for TARP
Our exit strategy for TARP balances the mandate of EESA to address
these challenges with the need to exercise fiscal discipline and reduce
the burden on current and future taxpayers. There are four broad
elements to our strategy.
First, we will continue terminating and winding down many of the
government programs put in place last fall. In September, Treasury
ended its Money Market Fund Guarantee Program, which guaranteed at its
peak over $3 trillion of assets. The program incurred no losses, and
generated $1.2 billion in fees. The Capital Purchase Program, through
which the majority of TARP investments in banks have been made, is
effectively closed. Before this Administration took office, nearly
$240 billion in TARP funds had been committed to banks. Since January
20, we have committed about $7 billion to banks, much of which went to
small institutions. Major U.S. banks subject to the “stress test”
conducted last spring have raised over $110 billion in high-quality
capital from the private sector. And banks will soon have repaid $116
billion of TARP funds
Second, we will limit new commitments in 2010 to three areas.
- We will continue to mitigate foreclosure for responsible American
homeowners as we take the steps necessary to stabilize our housing
- We recently launched initiatives to provide capital to small
and community banks, which are important sources of credit for small
businesses. We are also reserving funds for additional efforts to
facilitate small business lending.
- Finally, we may increase our commitment to the Term
Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), which is improving
securitization markets that facilitate consumer and small business
loans, as well as commercial mortgage loans. We expect that increasing
our commitment to TALF would not result in additional cost to taxpayers.
Beyond these limited new commitments, we will not use remaining EESA
funds unless necessary to respond to an immediate and substantial
threat to the economy stemming from financial instability. As a nation
we must maintain capacity to respond to such a threat. Banks are still
experiencing significant new credit losses, and the pace of bank
failures, which tend to lag economic cycles, remains elevated. At the
same time, many of the Federal Reserve and FDIC programs that have
complemented TARP investments are ending. This creates a financial
environment in which new shocks could have an outsized effect –
especially if an adequate financial stability reserve is not
maintained. As we wind down many of the government programs launched
initially to address the crisis, it is imperative that we maintain this
capacity to respond if financial conditions worsen and threaten our
economy. However, before using EESA funds to respond to new financial
threats, I would consult with the President and Chairman of the Federal
Reserve Board and submit written notification to the Congress. This
capacity will bolster confidence and improve financial stability,
thereby decreasing the probability that it will need to be used. This
is the third element of our exit strategy.
In order to accomplish these goals, pursuant to Section 120(b) of
EESA, I certify that I am hereby extending the authority provided under
the Act to October 3, 2010. This extension is necessary to assist
American families and stabilize financial markets because it will,
among other things, enable us to continue to implement programs that
address housing markets and the needs of small businesses, and to
maintain the capacity to respond to unforeseen threats, as described
While we are extending the $700 billion program, we do not expect to
deploy more than $550 billion. We also expect up to $175 billion in
repayments by the end of next year, and substantial additional
repayments thereafter. The combination of the reduced scale of TARP
commitments and substantial repayments should allow us to commit
significant resources to pay down the federal debt over time and slow
its growth rate.
Even with this extension, we expect that TARP will cost taxpayers at
least $200 billion less than was projected in the August Mid-Session
Review of the President’s Budget, including $25 billion in potential
costs from new TARP commitments in 2010. We expect that the vast
majority of these potential costs would come from mitigating
foreclosure for responsible American homeowners as we take the steps
necessary to stabilize our housing market.
The final element to our exit strategy is how we manage equity
investments acquired through EESA while protecting taxpayers. We will
continue to manage those investments in a commercial manner and seek to
dispose of them as soon as practicable. We will exercise our voting
rights only on core issues such as election of directors, and we will
not interfere in the day-to-day management of individual companies. In
addition, as the steward of taxpayers’ funds, Treasury will continue to
manage investments in a manner that ensures accountability,
transparency and oversight. And we will work with recipients of EESA
funds and their supervisors to accelerate repayment where appropriate.
We want to see the capital base of our financial system return to
private hands as quickly as possible, while preserving financial
stability and promoting economic recovery.
History suggests that exiting prematurely from policies designed to
contain a financial crisis can significantly prolong an economic
downturn. We must not waver in our resolve to ensure the stability of
the financial system and to support the nascent recovery that the
Administration and the Congress have worked so hard to achieve.
Improvements in the financial performance of EESA programs put us in a
better position to address the economic and financial challenges many
Americans still face. I look forward to continuing to work with you to
Timothy F. Geithner
Identical copy of this letter sent to:
The Honorable Harry Reid
cc: The Honorable Barney Frank
The Honorable Spencer Bachus
The Honorable David Obey
The Honorable Jerry Lewis
Submitted by Thought Offerings
With S&P 500 earnings reporting mostly (98%) complete for Q3 2009, it’s time for an update to the charts from Dividends, Earnings, and Stock Price Trends have Tracked the Great Depression.
following chart compares the decline in twelve month trailing earnings
and dividends since the stock market peaked in October 2007 to the same
measures following the stock market peak in September 1929:
Earnings have dropped more rapidly than during the Great Depression (dramatically so if you count reported rather than operating earnings), but they appear to have begun a recovery much sooner than occurred back then. Trailing 12-month dividends are still falling slightly faster than during the Great Depression, which is particularly remarkable given how much more severe deflation was then compared to now. These trends underscore that contrary to some claims, this is no crisis of confidence!
dividend changes tend to lag earnings changes, rising earnings could
mean dividends will level out and start increasing soon (and in fact
the quarterly fall in dividends from Q2 to Q3 was small). However, if
earnings are being over-reported thanks to factors such as relaxed
accounting rules or optimistic loan loss assumptions, dividends should ultimately reveal the truth about underlying cash flows.
while we should all hope that this recovery can be sustained, there is
a significant probability (details of which I hope to discuss in a
separate post) that this is a temporary upturn in a longer term depression. A renewed fall in GDP, persistent unemployment, and intensifying deflationary pressures would not be good news for any fledgling recovery in earnings and dividends.
is a chart comparing the dividend yield today with the Great Depression
trend. Yields are much lower today and are trending down again despite
the significant upward yield trend back then. So is this a genuine
early economic recovery, or a sign that the modern stock market tends
to be a capital-gain seeking momentum machine with little regard for
underlying fundamentals? Yes, interest rates are low, but they were
back then too, and David Rosenberg suggests most current corporate bond
yields are a lot more attractive than yields of the same companies’
The next chart compares price/earnings ratios earnings during the Great
Depression with today using reported earnings. There is no comparison.
It is clear that the market has accepted Wall Street’s encouragement to ignore reported earnings when valuing stocks,
so here is the same price/earnings chart using operating earnings (for
the recent trend — the measure had not been invented back then):
The P/E ratio based on operating earnings has soared above 25 just as
it did at a later stage during the Great Depression. I just wish I had
more confidence that this was the start of an earlier sustainable
recovery rather than a sign of the irrationality of markets and reckless myopia.
All of these charts use Robert Shiller’s monthly stock data (with a
single representative stock price for each month), not daily prices.