Category Archives: US Fed

1/9/19: Priming the Bubble Pump: Extreme Credit Accommodation in the U.S.

Using Chicago Fed National Financial Conditions Credit Subindex (weekly, not seasonally adjusted data), I have plotted credit conditions measurements for expansionary cycles from 1971 through late August 2019. Positive values of the index indicate tightening of credit conditions in the economy, while negative values denote loosening of credit conditions.

Since the start of the 1982 expansionary cycle, every consecutive cycle was associated with sustained, long term loosening of credit conditions, which means the Fed and the regulatory authorities have effectively pumped up credit in the economy during economic expansions - a mark of a pro-cyclical approach to financial policies. This trend became extreme in the last three expansionary cycles, including the current one. In simple terms, credit conditions from the end of the 1990s recession, through today, have been exceptionally accommodating. Not surprisingly, all three expansionary cycles in question have been associated with massive increases in leverage and financialization of the economy, as well as resulting asset bubbles ( bubble in the 1990s, property bubble in the 2000s, and financial assets bubbles in the 2010s).

The current cycle, however, takes this broader trend toward pro-cyclical financial policies to a new level in terms of the duration of accommodation and the fact that it lacks any significant indication of moderation.

16/7/19: Monetary Policy Paradigm: To Cut or To Cut, and Not to Not Cut

QE is back... almost. After a decade plus of failing to deliver on its core objectives, and having primed the massive bubble in risky assets, while pumping sky high wealth inequality through massive monetary transfers to the established Wall Street elites... all while denying that we are in an ongoing secular stagnation. So, courtesy of the unpredictable, erratic and highly uneven economic parameters performance of the last 12 months, we now have this:

Because, for all the obvious reasons, doing more of the same and expecting a different result is the wisdom of the policymaking in the 21st century.

19/1/18: Tears over QE & U.S. Household Debt Problem

As (some) White House-linked (or favouring) economists lament the Fed's QE (and there are reasons to lament it), one thing is clear: the unprecedented monetary policies of the recent years have achieved two things:

  1. The Fed QE has fuelled an unprecedented boom in risky assets (bonds, equities, property, cryptos, you name it); and
  2. The Fed QE sustained a dangerous explosion of personal household debt
Which, taken together, means that the rich got richer, and the middle classes and the poor got poorer. Because debt is not wealth. Worse, the policies past have set the stage for a massive unraveling of the credit bubble to come, if the Fed were to attempt to seriously raise rates.

Note: the figures below are not reflective of a reportedly massive jump in consumer credit in 4Q 2017 (see: 

Here is the latest data on personal household debt:

\And here is the aggregate data (also through 3Q 2017) from the NY Fed:

Year on year, 3Q 2015 growth in total household debt in the U.S. stood at 3.03%. This fell to 2.36% in 2016, before rising to 4.90% in 2017, the highest annual rate of growth for the third quarter period since Q3 2007.

Aggregate household debt in 3Q 2017, relative to 2005-2007 average was:
  • 11.8% higher in 3Q 2017 for Mortgages;
  • 23.4% lower for HE Revolving;
  • 51.9% higher for Auto Loans;
  • 6.6% higher for Credit Cards;
  • 201.2% higher for Student Loans;
  • 6.5% lower for Other forms of debt; and
  • 19.7% higher for Total household debt
In current environment, a 25 bps hike in Fed rate, if fully passed through to household credit markets, will increase the cost of household credit by USD32.4 billion per annum. The same shock five years ago would have cost the U.S. household USD 28.3 billion per annum. Now, put this into perspective: current markets expectations are for three Fed rate hikes (and increasingly, the markets are factoring a fourth surprise hike) in 2018. Assuming the range of 3-4 hikes moves to raise rates by 75-100 basis points, the impact on American households of the QE 'normalization' can be estimated in the region of USD98-130 billion per annum. Since much of this will take form of the non-deductible interest payments, the Fed 'unwinding' risks wiping out the entire benefit from the recent tax cuts for the lower-to-upper-middle class segments of population. 

Now, let's cry about the QE...