QE 4: Folks, This Ain't Normal

The Fed's recent decision to boost monetary stimulus demonstrates an almost complete departure from what a normal person might consider sensible. According to the author, the markets are now well and truly broken because they are no longer sending useful price signals.

by Chris Martenson
Friday, December 14, 2012, 12:22 PM
Peak Prosperity

Okay, the Fed's recent decision to boost its monetary stimulus (a.k.a. "money printing," "quantitative easing," or simply "QE") by another $45 billion a month to a combined $85 billion per month demonstrates an almost complete departure from what a normal person might consider sensible.

To borrow a phrase from Joel Salatin: Folks, this ain't normal. To this I will add ...and it will end badly.

If you had stopped me on the street a few years ago and asked me what I thought would have happened in the stock, bond, foreign currency, and commodity markets on the day the Fed announced an $85 billion per month thin-air money printing program directed at government bonds, I never would have predicted what has actually come to pass.

I would have predicted soaring stock prices on the expectation that all this money would have to end up in the stock market eventually. I would have predicted the dollar to fall because who in their right mind would want to hold the currency of a country that is borrowing 46 cents (!) out of every dollar that it is spending while its central bank monetizes 100% of that craziness?

Further, I would have expected additional strength in the government bond market, because $85 billion pretty much covers all of the expected new issuance going forward, plus many entities still need to buy U.S. bonds for a variety of fiduciary reasons. With little product for sale and lots of bids by various players, one of which – the Fed – has a magic printing press and is not just price insensitive but actually seeking to drive prices higher (and yields lower), that's a recipe for rising prices.

Then I would have called for sharply rising commodity markets because nothing correlates quite so well with thin-air money printing as commodities.

That's what should have happened. But it's not what we're seeing.

Instead, stocks initially climbed but then closed red. Gold was mysteriously sold in the thinly-traded overnight markets and again right after the announcement in large, rapid HFT blocks that swamped the bids. U.S. Treasury bonds actually sold off on the news. The dollar hardly budged. Commodities were mixed across the board but more or less flat on the day, with the exception of the metals, and especially the precious metals, which were sold vigorously.

The markets are now well and truly broken. Not because they don't conform to my predictions, but because they are no longer sending useful price signals. Instead, my hypothesis here is that the markets are now just a giant and rigged casino, where a relative handful of big firms and other tightly coupled players are gaming their orders to take advantage of this flood of money.

When your central bank badly misprices money and then bids up everything related to bonds, nothing can be reasonably priced. Risk is mispriced; the few remaining investors (as distinct from speculators, which are now the majority) are forced to accept both poor yields and higher risk – so we know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

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