Has Bernanke Turned Over a New Leaf?
“Maintaining the confidence of the financial markets requires that we, as a nation, begin planning now for the restoration of fiscal balance,” said Ben Bernanke yesterday. The Fed Chairman took a page from our playbook yesterday, warning Congress that “Unless we demonstrate a strong commitment to fiscal sustainability in the longer term, we will have neither financial stability nor healthy economic growth,”
From a man who played an integral role in two of the most easy-money, spendthrift administrations in U.S. history… that’s an interesting recommendation.
So what’s an investor to do? Prepare for higher Fed interest rates? Look for Bernanke to shut down the dollar printing press and for Congress to get its fiscal act together?
Nah. For the most part, we suspect Mr. Bernanke is just talking up his book. He’s got loads of T-bonds to buy, yields to suppress and mortgage rates to manipulate. The more interference he can run, the longer it will take for the world to wake up to this:
Washington is on track to issue more than $5 trillion in new debt over the next 18 months. Total interest payments on government debt are plotted to exceed $800 billion in the next 10 years, up almost fivefold from 2009. That’s if long bond yields stay under 5%, as the Congressional Budget Office forecasts. Every one percentage point higher, says Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff, will cost the U.S. government an extra $170 billion annually.
“The Fed can only manipulate interest rates so far,” notes our currency trader Bill Jenkins. “Then the market takes over. Our Treasury bonds are becoming a greater and greater risk to people who buy and hold them. Of course, basic market theory holds that to assume greater risk going forward, one must have a higher rate of return. So no matter what the Fed “dictates” by lowering rates, they are on their way up!”
Perhaps Washington’s only saving grace: The whole Western world has bought into America’s economic school of thought.
“We are witnessing the end of the post-World War II economic construct of the world’s financial system,” opines Byron King. “That construct always had a Western bias. But the 2008 crash of the Western business and financial model has changed everything. It has left a barren worldwide financial landscape for large development projects. Most traditional Western financing is simply not available for large projects. And as French author Francois Rabelais (1494-1553) once noted, ‘Nature abhors a vacuum.’
“Thus has the Western financial crisis handed well-capitalized, government-backed Chinese banks and industrial firms an unmatched competitive advantage. With the traditional credit markets dry, Chinese banks have transformed into key lenders for the resource developments that will fuel the next generation of humanity. Indeed, for now, the Chinese are the world’s ONLY lenders for large resource development projects.
“Exhibit 1, Brazil. Brazil is making a national commitment to develop energy resources located far offshore in the South Atlantic. Indeed, no nation has ever advanced such an ambitious plan for long-term comprehensive offshore development. And it’s being bankrolled by China.”
Could the world’s new reserve currency be “BRIC dollars”? Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will propose a new world currency when he meets with Chinese, Brazilian and Indian leaders this month, his spokeswoman said this week.
“We need some kind of universal means of payment, which could create the basis of a future international financial system,” Medvedev told CNBC. “Naturally, because of the crisis in the American economy, attitude to the dollar has also changed.”
What would we call them? Bric-ollars? Bric-ies?