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.

3 comments:

  1. Are you even remotely looking at the friggin' interest rates on bonds? Fer christsake, the 10yr is at something like 3.2% and FALLING! Even more importantly, the chart says those rates are going to get cut in half going forward.

    There is ZERO evidence for hyperinflation.

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  2. You should not be fooled into thinking those interest rates are natural market rates. The Fed is creating money and buying up bonds. This artificially increases the prices on bonds and reduces interest rates, for awhile. If done too long and too much this creating new money causes inflation, which will drive up interest rates. Short term the Fed can hold down interest rates, but long term it runs into trouble. I am looking at the longer term.

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