Printing money never turned around a correction

Nov 4, 2010

Delray Beach, Florida

Well, dear reader, you know the story as well as we do.

"US Stocks Rise as Fed Announces Additional Treasury Purchases," says Bloomberg.

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"U.S. stocks advanced, with banks helping benchmark indexes erase losses, after the Federal Reserve announced an additional $600 billion of Treasury purchases through June in a bid to boost growth in the world's largest economy.

"The S&P 500 climbed 0.4 percent to 1,198.03 as of 3:16 p.m. in New York. The measure had fallen as much as 0.8 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 26.64 points, or 0.2 percent, to 11,215.36.

"Nothing in here tells me that we should be selling stocks," said Paul Zemsky, the New York-based head of asset allocation for ING Investment Management, which oversees $550 billion. "The latest economic figures have been good. We have the Fed and the elections behind us. So there's less uncertainty."

"The S&P 500 surged 17 percent since July 2 through yesterday as odds increased that Republicans would take control of the House. The GOP, while falling short of winning the Senate, narrowed the chamber's Democratic majority yesterday in an election shaped by voter anxiety over jobs and the economy.

"Republicans gained at least 60 House seats across the country, capitalizing on concern that government spending has increased over the last two years and delivering a rebuke to the domestic agenda of President Barack Obama.

"The S&P 500 may rally as much as 16 percent in the next six months because the election will stymie legislative initiatives in Congress, billionaire investor Kenneth Fisher said.'

What? Does he just make this stuff up? Maybe stocks will go up. Maybe they'll go down.

We don't know. And we don't care. Stocks aren't cheap. And the country is still at the beginning of a major adjustment...a Great Correction that will probably depress business profits for many years.

Besides, the stock market never has completed it historic rendezvous with the garbage pile. Yes, every investment asset class goes from the trash heap to the penthouse - and then back. By our calculations, US stocks are on the downside of that slope. We'll wait 'til they reach the dump - that is, when they're at giveaway cheap prices - before we get excited about them again. We want to pick them out of the trash at pennies on the dollar.

Of course, we could wait a long time. From trough to peak typically takes 16 to 20 years. If you take the peak as of January 2000...when the Nasdaq hit its high...we have another 6 or so years to wait. But if the peak was the peak in the Dow of 2008...heck, we could wait until 2028 until we finally hit bottom.

And don't forget. Japan waited 20 years between its glory days of 1999 and it low of 2009. We could do the same. But so what? We can wait....

But let's talk about happier things. This year the voters - God bless 'em - threw out more bums than usual. The Republicans gained 60 house seats.

That means Congress is gridlocked. Obama doesn't seem to understand what is happening. And Ben Bernanke is cranking up the presses.

The Fed announced a $600 billion purchase program, from here until June. Even in dollars, that's a lot of money to throw into a market. The stated purpose is to lower interest rates even further...trying to coax business into hiring and consumers into spending.

Will it work? Will it create real prosperity...growth...and wealth? Ha. Ha. Nope. No chance.

How can we be so sure? Well, theory and practice. In theory, it makes no sense. Real jobs require real investment by real investors, entrepreneurs and businesspeople. It takes time. Skill. Luck. Giving the banks more money (which is what happens with QE) merely destabilizes serious producers. They don't know what to expect. Cheap money forever? Will inflation increase? What should interest rates be? They don't know. So, they wait...and watch...and the slump gets worse. Besides, the economy is correcting for a reason. Any interference is bound to be a mistake.

The lessons from experience are even more damning. There is no instance in all of history when printing press money actually turned around a correction. And if you really could make people better off by printing money, Zimbabweans would be the world's richest and most prosperous citizens. Followed by the Argentines; they've got 25% inflation right now.

Nope; it isn't going to work. And even if it seems to be will actually be making people worse off.

More news:

And more thoughts...

*** Here's Bloomberg on the subject of QE:

"The Federal Reserve may be underestimating the inflation outlook for the second time in less than a decade as it prepares to pump more money into the U.S. economy. "

"The Fed today will probably restart purchases of bonds to spur the economy even as growth is likely to accelerate at a 2.6 percent annual pace in the second quarter of next year from 2 percent last quarter, according to Bloomberg News surveys of economists. "

"By expanding Fed assets, Chairman Ben S. Bernanke may go down the same policy path taken in 2003-04, when he and other central bankers kept rates near a record low as inflation rose faster than initially measured. Bernanke may risk increasing expectations for higher inflation by too much, causing a shake-up in currency and bond markets," said James D. Hamilton, a University of California, San Diego economist.

"That perception alone would bring about a series of immediate challenges, such as a rapid flight from the dollar, commodity speculation and possible under-subscription to Treasury auctions," said Hamilton, a former visiting scholar at the Fed board and the New York and Atlanta district banks. "So the Fed has a careful tightrope act here."

"Since December 2008, the Fed has kept interest rates near zero and used asset purchases to try to stimulate growth following the worst recession since the 1930s. New asset purchases would follow Fed acquisitions of $1.7 trillion in Treasuries and mortgage debt that ended in March."

*** And here's an item from Reuters' "Business Banking News:"

"Wealth managers want to wean investors off gold."

What? Wealth managers are a threat to your wealth. No doubt about it. The US government runs $3 trillion of deficits since the end of '08. The Fed prepares to print $600 billion more, on top of the $1.7 billion it printed a year ago. In this situation gold is about the only thing you can depend on. It might go up. It might go down. But it won't go away.

And it will be here long after the US bond market collapses and the US dollar disappears.

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

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