Thursday, December 01, 2011

Monetary Cocaine From Six Central Banks

What can you say about yesterday's equity index responses to the announcement that six large-country central banks, and the ECB, provided coordinated dollar funding support to European financial concerns? This news, along with a optimistic ADP payroll forecast, drove the S&P500 Index up 4.3%.

But if you listened to various pundits on CNBC and Bloomberg television, the news wasn't actually so good. It gradually dribbled out that un unnamed European bank was set to go bankrupt over this coming weekend from insolvency due to an inability to replace lost dollar funding. The credible pundits, people like El Erian of PIMCO and Alan Meltzer, for example, were relieved with the immediate move, but remain concerned that the longer-term problems in the Euro zone remain unresolved. Meltzer advocated a two-track Euro, effectively saying he believes the currency, as we now know it, is finished.

But let's be blunt, if seemingly cynical.

What you heard from the asset management community was a gigantic sigh of relief that these six central banks have put their taxpayers' incomes behind promises to dollar-fund failing European banks, thus providing a free floor under the values of those managers' portfolios.

This is the sort of hyper-global crony capitalism against which Occupy Wall Street rails, only most of them aren't actually sufficiently knowledgeable to understand that.

Does anyone who is informed about the history of markets actually believe that a handful of central banks, several of which, I believe, aren't exactly all that significant (Canada, Switzerland), can outgun the world's hedge funds? Recall how George Soros gained a huge leg up in his net worth by betting against the British pound, allegedly on an inside tip, and won?

What about the Baker Plaza Accords of the 1980s? When central banks go to war in the markets with fund managers, the managers typically bring more assets to bear. Yes, the banks can 'create' money, but, in doing so, depreciate the value of the currency they are printing. There's a relevant range of effective expansionary monetary policy, i.e., printing or borrowing money, with respect to time, quantity and fiscal context. Right now, the Euro nations don't have much range, the US a bit more, but, in total, global economies are phenomenally over-leveraged already.

So how is it that a Euro-zone crisis caused by over-borrowing will be solved by central banks....borrowing or printing more money to magically produce dollar funding for near-insolvent European banks?

That said, I hope you enjoyed yesterday's landmark US equities rally. I'm sure the hedge fund managers whose asset values have been saved, provided they weren't naked short Euros, or can wait out the short-term pop in the currency's value, are very pleased. Everybody who was in the market got a nice 4% or so boost in value before selling the top in the coming months.

But as Rick Santelli said on CNBC this morning, the Fed is now 'all in' backing the Euro-zone and ECB. Helicopter Ben has linked the US economy and dollar to a bunch of entitlement-loving Euro nations and their failed fiscal policies.

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