Fed Has Shovel, Digs Bigger Hole
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2019-10-31 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Federal Reserve , 798 references Ignore this thread
Fed Has Shovel, Digs Bigger Hole
[Comments enabled]

Let's get to the bottom line on all this "rate cut" nonsense.

The Fed made a fatal mistake in first promoting "fiscal" actions (during the 08 crash) and then continuing to support them well after the bottom in 2009.  This allowed Barack Obama to run trillion dollar deficits for years and, once he did so to push policies that were economically bankrupt (e.g. the ACA) and got them embedded it was faced with the reality of the creature of its own design.

It appears that Yellen thought she could leave her office with a belated "goodbye" of "normalization", after having been complicit herself, and evade the impending blow up -- at least until after her chair had cooled off from her ugly ass sitting on same.

She was wrong.

Powell not only ratified Bernanke's policy he doubled down on his and Yellen's insanity instead of putting up the middle finger when Donald Trump was elected.  By supporting Trump's crazy deficit spending ramp he managed to stick ~30% on the stock market at the cost of trapping The Fed, permanently, in financing deficits.

If there was no cost to the real economy or real people in doing this it would defensible.  But there is such a cost, and it falls on 90% of the population -- which owns only a tiny percentage of equities.  Worse, that cost falls not only on savers but those who have a fiduciary responsibility toward safety and return, which also typically have as their beneficiaries that same 90% of the population!

Then there's the impact on state and local governments who can't earn that return either and thus this ramps property taxes in response.  And while ultra-low rates seem to be good in some other places (e.g. home values) that's a chimera.

Let me explain: A boom in home prices screws basically everyone in the general public.

Think about it for a minute.

You and your wife own a small, 2 bedroom "starter" house.  You decide to have a family.  You need a bigger house.  Your house has gone up in value by 50% over the last 10 years.  Good, right?  Wrong!  The new, larger house has gone up by the same percentage; in dollars it's gone up by much more!

50% of $100,000 is $50,000.  But 50% of $200,000 is $100,000!  Not only that but the property taxes have gone up by that same 50% and they're due every year forevermore into the future and, what's worse, the interest is due on the loan too.

So you say "well but I sell the $150,000 house and made $50k!"  Ah, Grasshopper, but the $200,000 house is now $300,000, and you only have $150k!  You got ****ed out of another $50,000; if there had been no price change your net requirement was another $100,000.  It's now another $150,000 instead!  SURPRISE!

Of course the Realtor loves this because 6% of $300,000 is 50% more money than 6% of $200,000.  And the bank loves it too because they to charge a percentage interest on the principal, MSRs are typically computed not on a "dollars per loan" but as a percentage and similar.  The insurance company loves you too, because the higher "value" means premiums go up, since if the house burns or is hit by a tornado the loss is higher.  And the city loves it because millage is just a fancy word for percentage and they get it every year.

How do you win?  Well, only one way: When you die!  You see, if you move you sell your bubble house but you must replace it with something, and that's another bubble house!  The only way you "win" is when you don't need a place to live, which only happens when you croak.

Of course the persons who really lose are those who don't have houses already.  But don't think for a second that being a "homeowner" means you win from a housing bubble.  Nope.

Why in the Hell would you want housing prices to go up unless you're (1) a banker, (2) a Realtor or (3) a City or County official?  Nobody else wants prices to go up!

Why have not everyone, ex the Realtors and Bankers, rioted already and burnt to the ground both The Federal Government and Federal Reserve for this bullcrap?


How about health care?  The latest MTS is out and as is the usual for September they played games.  That's a nice way of saying they intentionally didn't pay people at the end of the fiscal year to cook the books.  It's not like this is a new game but the shortages are pretty impressive.  About $30 billion for Medicare and Medicaid, for example.  Then there's Veterans' Affairs that has required $200 billion this last fiscal year but somehow, magically, only required $9 billion last month.  Uh huh, roughly half the monthly run-rate -- do you really expect me to believe that?  Then there's "Civil Defense Programs" that somehow manages to need only $826 million but has a run rate of nearly $61 billion annually.  What?

This isn't new, Mnuchin is doing nothing different than any of the previous *******s that warmed the chair he sits in.  While last month (which is a tax payment month) reported an alleged "surplus" for the month it was damn close to even had the games not been played.  Of course that would make the red ink look even worse, so cooking-the-books it shall be.

Just wait until you see all those vendors who scream and thus have to be paid in October and November!

How does this all tie in?  Simple: The Fed is driving the asset bubble so The Federal Government can run a trillion dollar deficit and not have their budget blow in their face.  This means suppressing rates, but doing that only works to a point, because eventually the fact that you still need the loan for the house and the principal still has to be paid irrespective of the interest rate chokes off demand.

It also chokes off net investment which it is already doing and Powell got questions on that this time around.  He doesn't have an answer other than "we're monitoring that" but he knows damn well that the no matter how cheap the money is when you drive up the capital cost sufficiently, which is what "lower for longer" does, the acquisition for investment still can't be paid for.

This is where the foldback comes from folks.  It comes slowly at first and the signs of it are out there right now.

As pressure builds eventually GDP and hiring will start to roll over.  Which, of course, will goad the Federal Government into trying to support asset -- read "stock" prices -- with even more deficit spending and even lower rates.

There's a coffin corner lurking out there when these policies are used in that negative rates are deflationary.  Think about it -- you pay $10,000 and get back (10 years later) $9,000.  That's deflation.  Their very presence doesn't stoke inflation it's directly deflationary, and the further you go down that road the worse it gets.  It's not possible to create inflation with a deflationary policy.

Powell knows damn well that problem lurks out there because Japan has done it and found the corner yet they haven't managed to get out of it despite claiming they can "any time they'd like" for the last 20 years.

How do you get out of it?  Boost rates, force the liquidations and those who are levered all go bankrupt.  Asset prices tumble and once the malinvestment has been sorted out people can afford to buy assets with their economic surplus once again, instead of playing the "pull forward" and "turn the crank" game.

Now how ugly does that get when the biggest borrower and more than a third of what is being spent by the Government is in Medicare and Medicaid?


Better not need either, for openers.

You should have found your pitchforks and road flares in 2008 folks.

I, and a few others, warned y'all.

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Posts: 3339
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Everything you said about housing prices is correct. Even though you paint a horrible picture I somehow feel that it is even worse. I love to dig on people when they repeat the BS that the economy is going well because housing prices are going up.

I used to say that the only way rising house prices benefits anyone is if they have 2 or more houses so that they can sell one for a profit. Now, I've begun to question even that. With rising property taxes it is becoming harder and harder to make money on a house and, when you do sell you get ever more worthless dollars. People are already fleeing high-tax states in droves as their policies are finally starting to bite.

We are on the Highway to Hell and the only way to get off of it is to do what you stated above. "How do you get out of it? Boost rates, force the liquidations and those who are levered all go bankrupt."


Here are my predictions for everyone to see:
S&P 500 at 320, DOW at 2200, Gold $300/oz, and Corn $2/bu.
No sign that housing, equities, or farmland are in a bubble- Yellen 11/14/13
Trying to leave the Rat Race to the rats...
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tampa bay area
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How refreshing it is to this 87 year old to find a "truth teller" in Karl! The twists and turns of political & economic policies are rarely addressed by traditional commentators with the clarity of Karl's presentation. Our children and grandchildren, when they put down their "screens", barely pay attention or study the the dimension or unsolvability of the obstacles looming ahead. History offers numerous examples of "surprises" that devastated economies from similar trends as we have now! Good luck ahead, "SUCKERS" and don't forget to send a Thank You note to Karl for his research!!
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Great Ticker

It's a giant feedback loop as well. Health care costs skyrocket so they ramp up stocks and RE values. This drives property and income taxes higher which are needed to pay the escalating health care costs of govt employees, public sector pension funds, and school teachers and admins. It's a self reinforcing negative feedback loop and since it can be dubbed "for the children" the sheep continue to allow this to happen.

People are lied too and misled that they are doing incredibly well as the "value" of their holdings goes up and up and up. The thing is it's all on paper and it's all an illusion. People are being taxed and robbed from on these imaginary gains created out of thin air by malfeasance and criminal actions. Also, as you have stated, even if you cash out to capture those gains you cannot buy anything of comparative value to replace it with so you lose again. Worse yet, damn few actually understand what is really going on and are completely brainwashed into believing the published narrative of how "good" all of this is.

Only suffering and intense financial pain will remedy this situation and maybe light the white hot anger needed to demand changes and accountability. (doubtful)

Fortunately, I grew up listening to family elders who survived the great depression and listened to their myriad of stories and experiences about it.

However, few if any others did the same. They bragged about how smart they were ,how this could never happen again, how measures were in place to prevent it, and how they were generally much smarter than those previous generations etc etc.

In my mind, that seals their fate of needing to endure those hardships once again first hand since they failed to learn from history which is one of humankind's greatest weaknesses.

I've spent a lifetime of getting/keeping prepared, living modestly, and without many of the trappings and wasteful spending I see everywhere around me. For sure I've lost many opportunities being paralyzed by the knowledge that this simply cannot continue but it has also went on for far longer that anyone could have known.

I am po'ed at the ignorance and stupidity I see everywhere about these complex financial matters. I fear my grains of sand will run through my hourglass before it all unfolds and resets. My sacrifices,my knowledge, my attempts to warn will all be lost as the machine slowly grinds everything to dust over time. I've been deemed as obsolete, unneeded and unappreciated and should just get out of the way for those who have all the answers and believe in all this made up bull****.

That is the thing about all of this, the rot and corruption is a slow parasitic drain it consumes everything and everyone over time. The corrupt bastards in charge know this and are patient in their attempts. Only now, are we seeing the cabal ramp up the speed and allowing the true agenda to slip out. Some are awakening from their slumber and are shocked how we have come to this point in time. Those of us who know what is going on are not surprised at all. One can only hope that when the "flares" and "forks" are brought out that they are directed at the true culprits and are not allowed to burn wildly out of control.

We desperately need a George Washington instead of an Adolf when the smoke clears on all of this but the odds are 10-1 (probbaly more) against us getting one.

Thank you for all the "sunlight" on the pertinent issues of the day.
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Scottsdale, AZ
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Every day we see more and more fake propaganda to keep the markets going. This morning the Chinese told the truth and the futures dropped 90 points. Kudblow comes out with his propaganda and rescues the fall. We have to be getting to a implosion zone because they are more and more desperate to keep the market going. The real inflation is starving millions of Americans who will never be able to retire. As a business owner, I see directly the costs that keep rising while my margins keep shrinking.
Just wondering how far they take it before the shooting starts.
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Yeah the only way to kind of win on housing is to buy early in the bubble, sell late in it and move much further outside the city where prices didn't go up as much or to a much lower cost of living area in general (eg: NYC to Alabama), although most would consider their standard of living to have gone down because they are so far away from the things they like about the city/state. Trying to explain the above to people is like scraping a chalk board though.

When the world economy blows, it's going to be interesting to see how gov/fed react and how people react to that. If we let everything bad flush out, it might suck horribly for 2-3 years but then things will get a lot better. Or we may end up with a 20 year depression or a violent revolution.

"There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved."

-~~Ludwig V
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A True American Patriot!
Southern Oregon
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My tagline has remained in place since it was clear there was no interest in clearing the bad debt from -- ANYWHERE. It has always, only, been a matter of time. Time approaches.

"...But people better realize that the worst-case scenario could actually happen.9/11 happened. This can happen. An economic 9/11, the likes of which we've never seen." Gerald Celente
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Scottsdale, AZ
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Just saw this posted. The cost of doing business is exploding while margins are shrinking. The Fed is to blame.

ECONX Q3 Employment Cost Index on the rise

The Q3 Employment Cost Index increased 0.7%, as expected, seasonally adjusted, for the three-month period ending in September 2019 after increasing 0.6% for the three-month period ending in June 2019.

Wages and salaries, which account for about 70% of compensation costs, rose 0.9%, while benefit costs, which make up the remainder of compensation costs, increased 0.6%.

The key takeaway from the report is that it shows a continuation of moderate growth in compensation costs.

Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 2.8% for the 12-month period ending in September 2019 versus 2.8% in September 2018. Wages and salaries increased 2.9% versus 2.9% for September 2018. Benefit costs increased 2.3% for the 12-month period ending in September 2019 versus 2.6% for September 2018.

Compensation costs for private industry workers increased 2.7% for the 12-month period ending in September 2019 versus 2.9% for September 2018. Wages and salaries increased 3.0% versus 3.1% for September 2018. Benefit costs increased 2.0 % for the 12-month period ending in September 2019 versus 2.5% for September 2018.

Compensation costs for state and local government workers increased 3.1% for the 12-month period ending in September 2019 versus 2.5% for September 2018. Wages and salaries increased 2.7% versus 2.3% for September 2018. Benefit costs increased 3.5% for the 12-month period ending in September 2019 versus 3.1% for September 2018.
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"You should have found your pitchforks and road flares in 2008 folks."

The pitchforks should have come out long before that.

We want beer! We want beer!" Is what the crowd chanted at Herbert Hoover when he attended the third game of the 1931 Cardinals vs. Athletics World Series in Philadelphia.

Is that the best that your grandpa could do? Chant? Boo? And flip Hoover the bird?

If a man's beer isn't worth getting out the pitchforks, then nothing is... right?

Hey, if your great grandaddy let the government outlaw his beer, then he might as well had let the government cut off his balls, too, because any man who allows his beer to be taken away from him is no man at all.

And that's just one example of thousands.

I was out in front of the Houston Federal Reserve with Alex Jones holding my bullhorn back in 2012. We were chanting "End The Fed! End The Fed!" Trust me, it's a losing battle. If a man won't get out the pitchfork over the Federal Reserve stealing his purchasing power, then he won't do **** about **** until the light go out - which is what I'm now patiently waiting for.

Alex is still pumping out some really great rants on a daily basis. And I support that. But, me, personally, I'm sharping my Bowie knife and biding time. I still scribble out some **** and make an appearance here and there and a donation or two to the GOA - but that's it. I'm too busy stockpiling, so it's Mother Nature and Mr. Market that sets my timing from here on out.

When Mr. Market and/or Mother Nature turns the lights out and the lights say out - that's when my pitchfork (and then some) comes out.
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Davenport, Fl
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Remember, there ability to kick this can down the road, is only limited to how many pitchforks have been sold. Last I checked, Sear's hasn't sold that many as of late.
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ft collins co
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Woz wrote..
Our children and grandchildren, when they put down their "screens", barely pay attention or study the the dimension or unsolvability of the obstacles looming ahead.
Yeah. For the most part they've been reared in a fanciful land lacking consequence.

But pain focuses the mind.

The laws of nature, although hidden for a time by this fake prosperity we've been enjoying, will reassert themselves and hard lessons will be learned by all - or they'll die.

The unexamined life is not worth living.-Socrates
The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law.-Aristotle
Liberty exists now in the spaces government has not yet chosen to occupy.-Doc Zero
I anticipate that 10 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders will blow me this evening.-K.D
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East Tennessee
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To continue the analogy...

In the bottom of a hole or not, the fed has to dig, all they have is a shovel and even the shovel will be taken away if they don't use it.

Enjoy the show.

It's justifiably immoral to deal morally with an immoral entity.

Festina lente.
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Great post.

It explains obvious points to those who come here.

Unfortunately, 90% of the people will never get this explanation and get to understand what is happening.

Other points, (which you did in other posts), should have been included.

1. the value of a car goes down . but not a house
2. the purchasing power of savings goes down (inflation) . but the cost of everything goes up. (no efficiency from automation)
3. Other countries are further down this road but we are not informed or shown how they got there. (Greece, Japan)
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Rising home prices have allowed people to use their property as a bank and cash out equity to pay off all the other loans they have.

Many people I know set their household budgets around what their payments are; mortgage, car, credit cards, etc. Paying off the nut isn't even part of their vocabulary. So long as there is room for another monthly bill they'll add it and when all those individual payments get too big to handle just use the home equity to clear them out and start all over. So long as rates keep going down that mortgage payment never seems to change. And by appearance they're living large - nice cars, nice vacations, etc. etc.

Trumps tax bill may have slowed that with capping the SALT deduction but habits die hard and RE prices are still up. Do I blame them? Not much different than what the Fed has been enabling Congress to do. Lots of times I feel the sucker for being a saver.
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My first accountant always said a home is an expense not an investment.

I caution anyone that will listen about 'improving' their home. The previous owner of my house sunk $120k into a remodel. My father sunk $70k into a house he is selling-- that isn't selling. An acquaintance, female, just spent $200k remodeling a $200k house-- so it would be 'perfect'. That is money you will rarely ever get back when you sell, at least in my experience. And realtors can FOAD for telling people they need to renovate before a sale.

The woman mentioned above: she now owes almost $300k on a $200k house. How the fk is that even possible unless it's 2007 again?
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A True American Patriot!
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@Drifter -- Yep.

What I am seeing REPEATEDLY is people who bought a $200k house, sunk god-knows-what into it, and now want $300k for it. I go look at it and what I see is a $200k house.

Did they spend the money? Who cares? It doesn't matter one bit to me; what DOES matter is that it's not how I would have done it, so while that "renovation" might well be new it will NEVER get a dollar-for-dollar price. Hell, even the STATISTICS say you NEVER get anywhere near what you put in back out. Maybe half -- maybe.

So you take their "advice", spend $100,000 and the offer you get is $50k better. You turn it down and then the place sits on the market for a year and ultimately is withdrawn because nobody is going to give you what you were told would make the value go up to but you DID spend the money. Meanwhile you get reassessed and the property taxes go up!

Now if you want to renovate because you intend to live there and that's what you want then it's a different matter. Now you're spending money on your enjoyment, and that's a VERY different calculation.

Winding it down.

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A True American Patriot!
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"Lots of times I feel the sucker for being a saver."

You're not alone. I struggle with that often.
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Let's stop blaming the fed for this. Congress and every state/local gov't has spent the money. The fed is just a tool. If it went away, the money would be printed and spent some other way. I have to laugh at people who can't believe QE happened. Believe me, they will always find a way to print and you will be amazed at their creativity.

The debt cannot be serviced without drastic consequences. Powell has no choice but to go along lowering borrowing costs over time, or he will be swept away for someone who will.

I just don't like using the fed as a scape goat. Too many people think ending the fed would solve all our problems. This does nothing to improve our understanding of the root causes. It just confuses the discussion with the technicalities of how money is created, multipliers, and other useless **** that doesn't matter.

Debt service is all that matters... and the marketing of that debt as a free lunch.
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@Stee_man -- The guards at Auschwitz said they had no choice but to go along as well. Thank you for confirming that you're plenty willing to sit back and let it happen.

Winding it down.
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"Lots of times I feel the sucker for being a saver."

You're not alone. I struggle with that often.

I don't. I sleep soundly at night.
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You are right. Powell and I are both cowards. We won't be the first ones over the hill with a rifle.

What took down the nazis? It was overreach. They too were unsustainable. They reached a tipping point where that prison guard could seize opportunities. Before that moment he would have been shot down uselessly.

The left didn't say please give me concentrated media ownership so I can use it to dominate politics. They gave BS reasons that sounded like good business. Now that they dominate politics, the right obviously sees clearly that they've been had. It should be pretty easy to convince them to roll that back as a major goal. Once there is more independent media, there will be voices arguing for sustainability. It would be a stealthy attack, like they did to us.
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A True American Patriot!
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@Stee_man - You are, it appears, unaware of history in this regard. Especially here in the United States.

Winding it down.
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Another consequence of this interest rate suppression is a mispricing of risk all across the risk spectrum. It distorts capital markets across the board.

There was a time when one could put money into a garden variety bank savings account and earn a return that is at least somewhat on par with inflation. With interest rates being suppressed, it forces people with required yield targets further out on the risk spectrum than is economically sound, in order to pursue higher yields.

This encourages mal-investment... Investments that are too risky or uneconomical to be made in a more realistically priced interest rate environment, are now being made, in pursuit of higher yields.

"If you don't have borders... if you don't have laws... you don't have a country."
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Miramar Beach
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"Better not need either, for openers."

I'm assuming that also refers to the jobs dependent upon feeding the beast.
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East Tennessee
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Bjonsson: Yea, and it shows too, in all sorts of asset pricing.

It's justifiably immoral to deal morally with an immoral entity.

Festina lente.
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