This article was written by Brandon Smith and originally published at Birch Gold Group
Ever since the credit and equities crash of 2008, Americans have been bombarded relentlessly with the narrative that our economy is “in recovery”. For some people, simply hearing this ad nauseam is enough to stave off any concerns they may have for the economy. For some of us, however, it’s just not satisfactory. We need concrete data that actually supports the notion, and for years, we have seen none.
In fact, we have heard from officials at the Federal Reserve that the exact opposite is true. They have admitted that the so-called recovery has been fiat driven, and that there is a danger that when the Fed finally stops artificially propping up the economy with constant stimulus and near zero interest rates, the whole farce might come tumbling down.
For example, Richard Fisher, former head of the Dallas Federal Reserve, admitted a few years ago that the U.S. central bank has made its business the manipulation of the stock market to the upside:
What the Fed did — and I was part of that group — is we front-loaded a tremendous market rally, starting in 2009.
It’s sort of what I call the “reverse Whimpy factor” — give me two hamburgers today for one tomorrow.
I’m not surprised that almost every index you can look at … was down significantly.
Fisher went on to hint at the impending danger (though his predicted drop is overly conservative in my view), saying: “I was warning my colleagues, don’t go wobbly if we have a 10-20% correction at some point…. Everybody you talk to … has been warning that these markets are heavily priced.”
One might claim that this is simply one Fed member’s point of view. But it was recently revealed that in 2012, Jerome Powell made the same point in a Fed meeting, the minutes of which have only just now been released:
First, the question, why stop at $4 trillion? The market in most cases will cheer us for doing more. It will never be enough for the market. Our models will always tell us that we are helping the economy, and I will probably always feel that those benefits are overestimated.
Keep in mind, that Jerome Powell is now the CHAIRMAN of the Federal Reserve. In 2012, he was well aware of the exact effects that the removal of stimulus (which includes low interest rates) would have on the false recovery in stock markets. He continues…
"My third concern — and others have touched on it as well — is the problems of exiting from a near $4 trillion balance sheet. We’ve got a set of principles from June 2011 and have done some work since then, but it just seems to me that we seem to be way too confident that exit can be managed smoothly. Markets can be much more dynamic than we appear to think.
So, the question now is, will Powell continue this trend of rate hikes and balance sheet reductions, being that he is recorded as knowing what the results will be? I believe that this is exactly what he will do. Why? Because the Fed’s goal is the deliberate controlled demolition not only of U.S. markets but also U.S. debt instruments and the dollar.
If I am wrong, then Powell, knowing the threat, will reverse rate hike policies and stop dumping the balance sheet in an effort to prop up the system. If I am right, then we will see Powell continue these policies over the course of 2018 and allow the system to implode.
There are a few major issues that come into play in terms of interest rate hikes and the balance sheet, including the fact that corporate debt is now at levels far beyond that held just before the crash of 2008. We are also witnessing the highest consumer debt levels in history, while personal savings have plunged.
Stock buybacks, fueled by low interest rates, have helped pump up stocks for years. However, most companies are prohibited from buybacks right before they report their earnings. Not to mention, the amount of debt companies have accumulated is reducing their ability to purchase stocks.
Without buybacks, we have seen what happens – complete market mayhem.
If this is what takes place in a month of reduced buybacks, what will happen when interest rates are raised high enough to make borrowing capital from the Fed prohibitive (ie, too expensive)?
What does all this translate into? The reality that there is NO MECHANISM within our economy that is buoyant enough to keep markets afloat when the Fed backs away. Nearly everyone is in massive debt, there is no one left to buy at the level needed except the Fed.
We are only standing at the beginning of this apparent new trend in equities, but it will be interesting to see what the reaction will be within the system as the Fed continues hiking rates and reducing the balance sheet. Will the beginning of every month in 2018 be met with a brand new storm of selling and panic? It’s hard to say. However, the math certainly does not support a bull market through the rest of this year.