Most Popular
1. Dow Max Drawdown Bear Stock Market 2022 - Accumulating Deviations from the Highs - 21st Feb 22
2.Putin Starts WW3 in Ukraine, Will Use Tactical Nuclear Weapons, China Prepares Taiwan Blitzkrieg - 28th Feb 22
3.World War 3 Phase 1 - Putin WINS Ukraine War! - 25th Feb 22
4.INVESTORS SEDUCED by CNBC and the STOCK CHARTS COMPLETELY MISS the BIG PICTURE! - 10th Feb 22
5.Will There Be A 2024 US Presidential Election? - 3rd Mar 22
6.Gold and SIlver, Precious Metals Sector Is at a Terrific Buy Spot - 6th Feb 22
7.Why Putin Wants the WHOLE of Ukraine - World War 3 Untended Consequences - 6th Feb 22
8.Dow Stock Market Expected Max Drawdown 2022 - 19th Feb 22
9.Stock Market Calm In the Eye of the Inflation Storm - 4th Mar 22
10.M = F - Everything is Waving! Stock Market Forward Guidance - 7th Mar 22
Last 7 days
Why APPLE Could CRASH the Stock Market! - 21st May 22
Why Is Crude Oil Ignoring US Inventories? - 21st May 22
Here is Why I’m Still Bullish on Gold Mining Stocks - 21st May 22
THE INFLATION MEGA-TREND QE4EVER! - 20th May 22
US Real Estate Investors – Is There An End In Sight? - 20th May 22
How Technology Affected the Gaming Industry - 20th May 22
How To Set And Achieve Reasonable Goals For Your Company - 20th May 22
How Low Could the Amazon (AMZN) Stock Price Fall? - 19th May 22
Bitten by FANG? Clocked by Cryptos? -- 'Air Pockets' Everywhere - 19th May 22
Northern General Hospital Orthopedics Fractures and and Ankle Clinic Consultations Real Patient Experience - 19th May 22
Cathie Wood Goes All in on Teladoc, ARKK INSANE Noob Investing Strategy! - 17th May 22
This is Anything but Positive for US Housing Market - 17th May 22
What Should We Do If There Is No Fed Monetary Policy Pivot? - 17th May 22
All Possible Ways to Earn Free Litecoin - 17th May 22
How low Could the Amazon Stock Price Fall? - 16th May 22
Cathy Wood ARKK INSANITY There is NO Coming Back! - 16th May 22
NASDAQ 100 Stock Market LOWER LOWS & LOWER HIGH - 16th May 22
Sanctions, trade wars worsen US inflation - 16th May 22
AI Tech Stocks Earnings BloodBath Buying Opportunity - 14th May 22
Futures Contract – Trading Crude Oil With USO - 14th May 22
How to Get Kaspersky Internet Security for 80% Discount! Do not Pay Renewal Price! - 14th May 22
Sagittarius A* Super Massive Black Hole Monster at Centre of Our Galaxy REVEALED! - 14th May 22
UK Public Debt Smoking Inflation Gun - 13th May 22
What Happens When the Stock Market Dip Keeps Dipping? - 13th May 22
Biden Seeks Inflation Scapegoats; Gold Advocate Wins GOP Primary - 13th May 22
Apple and Microsoft Nuts Are About to CRACK and Send Stock Market Sharply Lower - 12th May 22
The War on Gold Ensures the Dollar’s Downfall - 12th May 22

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

The Economic Stimulus Trap

Economics / Economic Stimulus Mar 26, 2013 - 01:29 PM GMT

By: Peter_Schiff

Economics

For years we have been warned by Keynesian economists to fear the so-called "liquidity trap," an economic cul-de-sac that can suck down an economy like a tar pit swallowing a mastodon. They argue that economies grow because banks lend and consumers spend. But a "liquidity trap," they argue, convinces consumers not to consume and businesses not to borrow. The resulting combination of slack demand and falling prices creates a pernicious cycle that cannot be overcome by the ordinary forces that create growth, like savings or investment. They say that a liquidity trap can even resist the extraordinary force of monetary stimulus by rendering cash injections into useless "string pushing." Some of these economists suggest that its power can only be countered by a world war or other fortunately timed event that leads to otherwise politically unattainable levels of government spending.


Putting aside the dubious proposition that the human desire to strive and succeed can be permanently short-circuited by an economic contraction, and that modest expected price declines can quell our desire to consume, the Keynesians have overlooked a much more dangerous and demonstrable pitfall of their own creation: something that I call "The Stimulus Trap." This condition occurs when an economy becomes addicted to the monetary stimulus provided by a central bank, and as a result fails to restructure itself in a manner that will allow for robust, and sustainable, growth. The trap redirects capital into non-productive sectors and starves those areas of the economy that could lead an economic rebirth. The condition is characterized by anemic growth and deteriorating underlying economic fundamentals which is often masked by inflation or asset price bubbles (I look at how stimulus has impacted the U.S. stock market in the March edition of my newsletter).

Japan has been caught in such a stimulus trap for more than a decade. Following a stock and housing market boom of unsustainable proportions in the 1980s, the Japanese economy spectacularly imploded in 1991. The crash initiated a "lost decade" of de-leveraging and contraction. But beginning in 2001, the Bank of Japan unveiled a series of unconventional policies that it describes as "quantitative easing," which involved pushing interest rates to zero, flooding commercial banks with excess liquidity, and buying unprecedented quantities of government bonds, asset-backed securities, and corporate debt. Although Japan has been technically in recovery ever since, its performance is but a shadow of the roaring growth that typified the 40 years prior to 1991. Recently, conditions in Japan have deteriorated further and the underlying imbalances have gotten progressively worse. Yet despite this, the new government is set to double down on the failed policies of the last decade.

I believe that the United States is now following Japan into the mire. After the crash of 2008, we implemented nearly the same set of policies as did Japan in 2001. In the past two years, despite the surging stock market and apparently declining unemployment rate, the size and scope of these efforts have increased. But as is the case in Japan, we can clearly witness how the stimulus has perpetuated stagnation. (See my analysis of the new plans of the Japanese government).

In 2008, one of the country's biggest problems was that we had over-leveraged too many non-productive sectors of the economy. For instance, we irresponsibly lent far too much money to people to buy over-priced real estate. Since then, the problem has gotten worse. Currently the process of writing, securitizing, and buying home mortgages has been essentially nationalized. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (which are now officially government agencies) write and package the vast majority of new home mortgages, which are then guaranteed (almost exclusively) through the Federal Housing Administration, and then sold to the Federal Reserve. According to a tally by ProPublica, these government entities bought or insured more than nine out of 10 home mortgages originated last year, a $1.3 trillion business. Compare this to 2006, when the government share was only three in 10. As a result of this, our lending is far more irresponsible than it has ever been.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, 44% of all FHA borrowers either had no credit score or a score of 679 or lower. In addition, the overwhelming majority of FHA guaranteed loans are being made at 95% or greater loan-to-value. This means down payments are an afterthought. Under the FHA's Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), loans are now even extended to underwater borrowers whose mortgages may be worth far more than their homes. As a result, the FHA could be exposed to enormous losses in the event of future housing market downturns. Such an outcome would be likely if mortgage interest rates were ever to rise even modestly from their current low levels.

In fact, losses on low-quality mortgages have already left the FHA with $16 billion in losses. To close the gap, it has had to raise the insurance premiums it charges to borrowers. With those premiums expected to rise again next month, many fear that marginal borrowers could be priced out of the market. But rather than learning from its mistakes, the government just announced that Fannie Mae would pick up the slack, lowering its lending standards to match the ones that had led to losses at the FHA. In other words, we haven't solved the problem of bad lending - we have simply made it bigger and nationalized it.

The overall financial sector is equally addicted to cheap money. Banks have seen strong earnings and rising share prices in recent years. But their businesses have largely focused on the simple process of capturing the spread between the zero percent cost of Fed capital and the 3% yield of long term Treasury debt and government insured mortgage backed securities. As a result, banks are not making productive private sector loans to businesses. Instead, the capital is being used to pump up the already bloated housing and government sectors.

Corporate profits are indeed high at the moment, but much of that success comes from the extremely low borrowing costs and extremely high leverage. Investors chasing any kind of yield they can find are pouring money into companies with dubious prospects. This January, yields on junk rated debt fell below 6% for the first time. Currently they are approaching 5.5%. Consumers are using cheap money to buy on credit. Savings rates are now hitting post-recession lows.

Lastly (but certainly not least), the Federal government is now totally dependent on the Fed's largess. Without the Fed buying the bulk of Treasury debt, interest rates would likely rise, thereby increasing the cost of servicing the massive national debt. While Congress and the media have focused on the $85 billion in annual cuts earmarked in the "Sequester," an increase of Treasury yields to 5% (3% higher than current levels) on the $16 trillion in outstanding government debt would translate to $480 billion per year of increased interest payments. Such an increase would force a tough choice between raising taxes, cutting domestic spending or reducing interest payments sent abroad for debt service. If foreign creditors begin to doubt that America has the resolve to make the hard choices, they may refuse to roll-over maturing obligations, forcing the government to actually repay principal. With trillions maturing each year, actual repayment is mathematically impossible.

But for now most people feel that the transition is underway to a healthy economy. The prevailing debate is when and how the Fed will let the economy fly on its own. Many of the top market analysts have great faith that Ben Bernanke can pull the monetary tablecloth off the table without disturbing the dishes. Those who hold this view fail to understand that the United States is caught in a stimulus trap from which there is no easy exit. How can the Fed wean the economy from stimulus when stimulus IS the economy? In truth, the trick Bernanke must actually perform is to pull the table out from beneath the cloth, leaving both the cloth and the dishes suspended in air. (Read how Iceland confronted its own crisis while avoiding the stimulus trap).

What would happen to the Treasury market if the Federal Reserve, by far the biggest buyer and largest holder of Treasury bonds, became a net seller? Who will be there to keep the sell off from becoming an interest rate spiking rout? It may sound absurd to those of us who remember the economy before the crash, but our new economy can't tolerate "sky high" rates of four or five percent. What would happen to the housing market and the stock market if interest rates were to return to those traditional levels? The red ink would flow in rivers. With yields rising and asset prices falling, how long would it take before the Fed reverses course and serves up another round of stimulus? Not long at all.

That means any talk of an exit strategy is just that, talk. Not only can the Fed not exit, but it will have to delve further into the stimulus abyss. While doing so, the Fed will continuously insist that the exit lies just behind an ever moving horizon. It will repeat this mantra until a currency crisis finally forces a painful exit.

Unfortunately, the longer the Fed waits to exit, the more painful the exit will be. But trading long-term pain for short-term gain is the Fed's specialty. In the meantime, Wall Street watches in uncomprehending stupor as the economy settles deeper and deeper into the stimulus trap.

Peter Schiff is the CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, best-selling author and host of syndicated Peter Schiff Show.

Subscribe to Euro Pacific's Weekly Digest: Receive all commentaries by Peter Schiff, John Browne, and other Euro Pacific commentators delivered to your inbox every Monday!

And be sure to order a copy of Peter Schiff's recently released NY Times Best Seller, The Real Crash: America's Coming Bankruptcy - How to Save Yourself and Your Country.

Regards,
Peter Schiff

Euro Pacific Capital
http://www.europac.net/

Peter Schiff Archive

© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in