Monday, January 24, 2011

Hussman + Mish => Hyperinflation

Today's Hussman article has a very good explanation of how money velocity, interest rates, quantity of money, and prices relate to each other.  It also shows the fix the Fed is in. When interest rates go up people won't be so casual and slow with their money, so the velocity of money will go up. If other things stay the same, this would cause prices to go up.  He calculates that if treasury bills get to 4%, and the Fed does not take out money, prices will be more than double.  So he figures the Fed must withdraw lots of money.  To do this the Fed must sell the debt it recently bought to get the money supply back down where it used to be.

Mish recently noted that if the Fed sold (or marked to market) the debt they bought over the last few years after interest rates go up they would have a huge loss.   To a good approximation a 30 year bond is worth half as much if the market interest rate doubles.  Mish says the Fed can just hold the debt till maturity so it won't take a loss. The Hussman article show the flaw in this thinking, the Fed must sell to withdraw money when interest rates go up or there will be huge inflation.

Like other banks, the Fed currently operates on mark to fantasy accounting.  They will not really be able to sell their assets for anywhere near what they paid, so they can not withdraw all the money they created when they bought these.  The other problem is that the Fed is monetizing about $100 billion per month and the Federal deficit is about $100 billion per month.  If the Fed stops buying debt and starts selling, how can they find enough buyers?  So I don't believe they will actually sell any, there is no real exit strategy.

If you put Hussman and Mish together, neither of which is a hyperinflationist, you get close to the hyperinflationist case. I highly recommend reading both of these articles and thinking about the implications of the two together.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Bernanke Stock Jump

On Aug 27, 2010 Bernanke gave a speech at Jackson Hole and since then the market is up around 20%.  I suspect the speech resulted in the stock market jump.  However, there is no meat in the speech to justify such a jump.  It did make it seem that Bernanke was not going to start an "exit strategy" but instead thought he needed to add more money.  Since Bernanke has no skill in predicting the future nobody should trust any forecasting he does. 

In particular Bernanke thought he could hold down interest rates but bond yields are going up since then. At this point bonds are about the worst investment you can make so they should go down and interest rates up for some time.  During the history of the Fed messing with interest rates, stocks tend to move the opposite direction interest rates are moving so we should expect stocks to go down.