June 21, 2024

Japan Joins The QE Race – Who Can Print The Most Money?

After what appeared to be a coordinated effort by Europe and the U.S. to print their way to prosperity, Japan quickly joined the race to eternal QE with the surprise announcement of additional monetary easing.

TOKYO—The Bank of Japan took surprisingly strong steps to further ease its monetary policy on Wednesday, following similar steps by the Federal Reserve, as it tries to tackle entrenched deflation, an export-sapping strong yen and the impact of slowing global growth.

The central bank’s policy board decided at the end of a two-day meeting to increase the size of its asset-purchase program—the main tool for monetary easing with near-zero interest rates—to ¥80 trillion ($1.01 trillion) from ¥70 trillion.

The move came after the Fed introduced another round of quantitative easing last week, which put renewed upward pressure on the yen.

“These measures in pursuit of powerful monetary easing will make financial conditions for such economic entities as firms and households even more accommodative by further encouraging a decline in longer-term market interest rates and a reduction in risk premiums,” the central bank said in a statement released together with the rate decision.

Board members voted unanimously to expand the scope of the asset-purchase program. The BOJ also decided to leave its policy rate, or the unsecured overnight call loan rate, unchanged in a 0.0%-0.1% range.

Japan has been in an endless loop of money printing ever since stocks and real estate crashed in the early 1990’s after one of the biggest financial bubbles in history.  Twenty years of quantitative easing and monetary stimulus have resulted in stagnant wages, the largest debt to GDP ratio in the world and a stock market that is still off 75% from its high.  Except for printing additional money, Japan seems flat out of options for reviving its economy.

Courtesy yahoo finance

Does anyone really expect this desperation tactic to cure Japan’s problems?

Fed Lays Groundwork For Price Explosion In Gold

Gold hit another all time high of $1,779.10 before pulling back to close at $1745.10, up $26.90.  Gold has advanced strongly over the past year as the Federal Reserve engaged in quantitative easing and extremely loose monetary policy.  Over the past 30 days gold has gained $198 and over the past year, a stunning $548.70 per ounce.

At the conclusion of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting on Tuesday, the Fed announced that it would maintain its zero interest rate policy through the middle of 2013.   The Fed does not normally make commitments that limit future policy flexibility and three of the seven members of the FOMC  voted against the pledge to maintain zero interest rates.

The Fed has held interest rates at zero for 32 months now with little to show for it as debt burdened consumers continue to reduce spending.  With inflation running at 5 to 10% (depending on whose stats you believe), real interest rates are negative and savers are seeing the purchasing power of their dollars destroyed by Fed policies.

The FOMC also said that they expect “a somewhat slower pace of recovery over the coming quarters” and that future action might be taken to “promote stronger economic recovery.”  Since the Fed has already exhausted all normal policy tools, the FOMC seems to be positioning itself for another round of quantitative easing.  Some analysts speculate that the Fed will discuss further easing measures later this month at the Fed’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where QE2 was launched.

Further fiscal stimulus seems improbable given the restrictions put on future spending by Congress as part of the debt limit agreement.  In a sign of how desperate the financial condition of the United States has become, all eyes are now turned towards the Fed.

Since zero interest rates and two rounds of money printing have done little to turn around the US economy, the expectation is that the Fed will need to do more of what failured before, except on a grander scale.  I expect that as the economy continues to weaken, the Fed will announce a “shock and awe” campaign of massive money printing accompanied by an explicit statement that they are committed to higher inflation.

Federal Reserve policies have been the primary factor pushing the price of gold higher.  The inevitable announcement of further quantitative easing will be trigger that pushes gold prices thousands of dollars higher.

Consider the statement of the former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan who on a “Meet the Press” interview arrogantly proclaimed that the United States could never default because “The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default.”  This is what the United States has come to under the easy money policies of the Federal Reserve and a government that believes prosperity can be created by oceans of debt.  Is it any wonder that the currency is collapsing and the purchasing power of the dollar declining precipitously?

Meanwhile, Kenneth Rogoff (of This Time It’s Different fame) who attended Harvard with Bernanke, tells Bloomberg that the Fed should explicitly set a high inflation target and engage in massive quantitative easing.

Federal Reserve policy makers are likely to embark on a third round of large-scale asset purchases, moving “more decisively” to secure the U.S. recovery, said Harvard University economist Kenneth Rogoff.

“They certainly should do something right away,” said Rogoff, a former International Monetary Fund chief economist who attended graduate school with Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.

“Out-of-the-box policies are called for, especially much more aggressive monetary policy, however unpopular that may be,” said Rogoff, 58, a former Fed economist who like Bernanke earned a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Fed is “going to move more decisively,” Rogoff said.

Rogoff recommended the Fed say in “very clear statements” that it’s trying to create “moderate inflation.” “In the classic classroom QE, it’s open-ended,” Rogoff said. “You say, ‘I’m trying to create inflation of, let’s say 2 or 3 percent, and I’m going to do whatever it takes.’”

The extreme policy measures recommended by Greenspan and Rogoff prove that the US has already passed the tipping point and has only one policy option left.  If the Fed does not print like crazy, the whole rotten edifice of towering debts will collapse, plunging the country into a deflationary collapse.

Gold will have price corrections as it continues to move upward but the ultimate price will be many thousands of dollars higher than today.  Gold investors should continue to accumulate positions, especially on price weakness and enjoy the unfolding of one of the greatest bull markets in history.

Why There Is No Upside Limit for Gold and Silver Prices

The past decade has seen a virtually nonstop advance in the price of gold.  Silver, which lagged gold until last year,  recently hit a 31 year price high.  Gold and silver, both used as currency for thousands of years, have gained broad investor appeal as a hedge against paper currencies.

The increase in the value of gold and silver is due to the fiscal and monetary policies of nations struggling to deal with massive levels of debt – policies that virtually guarantee a continued rise in the price of gold and silver.

Central banks, having exhausted all conventional means of monetary easing, have moved on to the last resort option of quantitative easing and currency debasement.  Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke has twice resorted to the printing presses, and then shamelessly explained the “virtues” of his money printing policy (in convoluted terms) to a gullible public on national television.  The subsequent absence of broad public opposition to a policy that is certain to ultimately destroy the financial well being of most Americans seems based on ignorance and/or indifference.

One American who is not ignorant or indifferent to the Fed’s policy of printing money issued a dire warning this week on the dangerous path the Federal Reserve has taken.  The reason we should all pay great attention to this warning is because it was issued by a powerful policy maker at the Federal Reserve.

According to Reuters, Richard Fisher, President of the Dallas Federal Reserve stated in a speech that the debt situation in the U.S. is at a “tipping point.” He is quoted as saying, “If we continue down on the path on which the fiscal authorities put us, we will become insolvent.  The question is when”.   Bank President Fisher further said that no additional extraordinary measures should be taken when the current round of money printing ends in June of this year.

We shall see what happens comes mid year when QE2 is scheduled to end.  The problem facing the Fed is that they are out of conventional policy bullets to ease credit conditions with rates already at zero.  The ease and apparent lack of consequences in printing money has made additional quantitative easing a very seductive method of  allowing huge deficit spending by the government.  QE2 is a thinly disguised monetization of the Federal deficit in which the Federal Reserve purchases government debt from the primary dealers after they purchase the debt at Treasury auctions.

Government officials argue that unprecedented deficit spending and quantitative easing are necessary to stimulate economic  growth, but this theory has not worked in the real world.  Despite trillions in stimulus spending,  job creation and economic growth have been extremely weak and are likely to remain so according to economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart who wrote This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly.  According to Rogoff and Reinhart, economic growth is subpar when public sector debt exceeds 90% of GPD which the U.S. and many other developed nations have already surpassed.  In addition, a recovery of the job and housing markets after a financial crisis take many years due to the burden of excessive levels of debt.  Ultimately, Rogoff and Reinhart predict that austerity measures will need to be imposed along with some type of debt restructuring.

Is the U.S. capable of reducing spending and  instituting austerity measures? Cutting deficits means cutting payments to a long list of incomeless recipients who really don’t care where the entitlement money comes from.  Those still actually paying taxes will object strongly to any proposed tax increase to fund government spending.  Unable to cut spending or raise taxes leaves the Government with one bad option – print more money.

Politicians, who value getting elected above all else, are likely to strong arm the reliably compliant Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to “come to the rescue” again with QE3.   In the minds of politicians and Federal Reserve officials, there will always be very compelling reasons to continue borrowing and money printing.  With the expected retirement of Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas President Thomas Hoenig this October, the Federal Reserve will be dominated by dovish members who favor the easy money policies of Fed Chairman Bernanke.  President Hoenig is one of the few Fed members who oppose continued zero interest rates and quantitative easing.

The correlation between parabolic increases in government debt and the price of gold is clear.   Since 2000 both government borrowing and the price of gold have been closely correlated as seen below.  The increased value of gold directly reflects the decreasing value of paper money.

A nation that has reached the limits on taxation and borrowing has few viable policy options other than a continuing series of quantitative easing programs.  Current government policies, if left unchanged, virtually guarantee a continued increase in the price of precious metals.