Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Fun With the Fed and Negative Interest Rates Spooking (and breaking) Markets

Stocks took a beating on Tuesday as trade and impeachment worries were reinforced and the Fed quietly reintroduced QE on the heels of the recent repo panic.

Most of this Fed stuff is beyond almost everybody's pay grade, but the simple finding is that the Fed and other central banks, having expanded their balance sheets to outrageous levels after the GFC in '08-'09, can't find a suitable mechanism to reintroduce all that money back into the system without blowing something up. Ergo, the REPO-related funding issues and now, POMO, because the Fed has backed themselves into a corner painted green with excessive amounts of securities (Treasuries and MBS) and they have to continue being the buyer of last resort, though even moreso now.

So, is cash tight? Kind of, depending on who you talk to, but the Fed's going to ease us all onto easy street again and will lower the federal funds rate again at the end of this month, by at least 25 basis points. At the rate they're going, the Fed is going to find itself at the zero-bound and staring negative interest rates squarely in the face right around the November elections next year.

The fed funds rate is currently 1.75-2.00%. After October's expected 25 basis point (maybe 50?) cut, it will only take six more similar cuts to put the rate at 0.00-0.25%, right back where it was from 2009-2015. However, given the odds for a slowdown in Europe and Japan and elsewhere, interest rates on a global basis are expected to continue their decline.

In order for the US to remain competitive, it may, at some point be forced to tease out negative rates, a slippery slope for certain. A little at first, like -0.10, and soon the market sends it snowballing, like in Europe and Japan where the entire yield curves are under zero.

Happy days! Some day a bank might come to Mr. or Miss Creditworthy and offer to pay them to buy a house or a car or maybe an electric blender if they open an account. But by then, bank charges will exceed the value of anything anybody can whip up in a blender, smoothie or otherwise.

We all want to live in interesting times, but thanks to the banking institutions and fiat currencies floated out of thin air, it's already bizarro-world and getting stranger each passing day.

At the Close, Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,164.04, -313.96 (-1.19%)
NASDAQ: 7,823.78, -132.51 (-1.67%)
S&P 500: 2,893.06, -45.73 (-1.56%)
NYSE Composite: 12,590.91, -186.79 (-1.46%)

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