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In Unprecedented Monetary Overhaul, The Fed Is Preparing To Deposit “Digital Dollars” Directly To “Each American”

In Unprecedented Monetary Overhaul, The Fed Is Preparing To Deposit "Digital Dollars" Directly To "Each American"

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In Unprecedented Monetary Overhaul, The Fed Is Preparing To Deposit "Digital Dollars" Directly To "Each American" Tyler Durden Wed, 09/23/2020 - 10:19

Over the past decade, the one common theme despite the political upheaval and growing social and geopolitical instability, was that the market would keep marching higher and the Fed would continue injecting liquidity into the system. The second common theme is that despite sparking unprecedented asset price inflation, price as measured across the broader economy - using the flawed CPI metric and certainly stagnant worker wages - would remain subdued (as a reminder, the Fed is desperate to ignite broad inflation as that is the only way the countless trillions of excess debt can be eliminated and yet it has so far failed to do so).

The Fed's failure to reach its inflation target - which prompted the US central bank to radically overhaul its monetary dogma last month and unveil Flexible Average Inflation Targeting (or FAIT) whereby the Fed will allow inflation to run hot without hiking rates - has sparked broad criticism from the economic establishment, even though as we showed in June, deflation is now a direct function of the Fed's unconventional monetary policies as the lower yields slide, the lower the propensity to spend. In other words, the harder the Fed fights to stimulate inflation, the more deflation and more saving it spurs as a result (incidentally this is not the first time this "discovery" was made, in December we wrote "One Bank Makes A Stunning Discovery - The Fed's Rate Cuts Are Now Deflationary").

In short, ever since the Fed launched QE and NIRP, it has been making the situation it has been trying to "fix" even worse while blowing the biggest asset price bubble in history.

And having recently accepted that its preferred stimulus pathway has failed to boost the broader economy, the blame has fallen on how monetary policy is intermediated, specifically the way the Fed creates excess reserves which end up at commercial banks instead of "tricking down" all the way to the consumer level.

To be sure, in the aftermath of the covid pandemic shutdowns the Fed has tried to short-circuit this process, and in conjunction with the Treasury it has launched "helicopter money" which has resulted in a direct transfer of funds to US corporations via PPP loans, as well as to end consumers via the emergency $600 weekly unemployment benefits which however are set to expire unless renewed by Congress as explained last week, as Democrats and Republicans feud over which fiscal stimulus will be implemented next.

And yet, the lament is that even as the economy was desperately in need of a massive liquidity tsunami, the funds created by the Fed and Treasury (now that the US operates under a quasi-MMT regime) did not make their way to those who need them the most: end consumers.

Which is why we read with great interest a Bloomberg interview with two former Fed officials: Simon Potter, who led the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s markets group i.e., he was the head of the Fed's Plunge Protection Team for years, and Julia Coronado, who spent eight years as an economist for the Fed’s Board of Governors, who are among the innovators brainstorming solutions to what has emerged as the most crucial and difficult problem facing the Fed: get money swiftly to people who need it most in a crisis.

The response was striking: the two propose creating a monetary tool that they call recession insurance bonds, which draw on some of the advances in digital payments, which will be wired instantly to Americans.

As Coronado explained the details, Congress would grant the Federal Reserve an additional tool for providing support—say, a percent of GDP [in a lump sum that would be divided equally and distributed] to households in a recession. Recession insurance bonds would be zero-coupon securities, a contingent asset of households that would basically lie in wait. The trigger could be reaching the zero lower bound on interest rates or, as economist Claudia Sahm has proposed, a 0.5 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate. The Fed would then activate the securities and deposit the funds digitally in households’ apps.

As Potter added, "it took Congress too long to get money to people, and it’s too clunky. We need a separate infrastructure. The Fed could buy the bonds quickly without going to the private market. On March 15 they could have said interest rates are now at zero, we’re activating X amount of the bonds, and we’ll be tracking the unemployment rate—if it increases above this level, we’ll buy more. The bonds will be on the asset side of the Fed’s balance sheet; the digital dollars in people’s accounts will be on the liability side."

Essentially, the Fed is proposing creating a hybrid digital legal tender unlike reserves which are stuck within the financial system, and which it can deposit directly into US consumer accounts. In short, as we summarized "The Fed Is Planning To Send Money Directly To Americans In The Next Crisis", something we reminded readers of on Monday:

So this morning, as if to confirm our speculation of what comes next, Cleveland Fed president Loretta Mester delivered a speech to the Chicago Payment Symposium titled "Payments and the Pandemic", in which after going through the big picture boilerplate, Mester goes straight to the matter at hand.

In the section titled "Central Bank Digital Currencies", the Cleveland Fed president writes that "the experience with pandemic emergency payments has brought forward an idea that was already gaining increased attention at central banks around the world, that is, central bank digital currency (CBDC)."

And in the shocking punchline, then goes on to reveal that "legislation has proposed that each American have an account at the Fed in which digital dollars could be deposited, as liabilities of the Federal Reserve Banks, which could be used for emergency payments."

But wait it gets better, because in launching digital cash, the Fed would then be able to scrap "anonymous" physical currency entirely, and track every single banknote from its "creation" all though the various transactions that take place during its lifetime. And, eventually, the Fed could remotely "destroy" said digital currency when it so decides. Oh, and in the process the Fed would effectively disintermediate commercial banks, as it would both provide loans to US consumers and directly deposit funds into their accounts, effectively making the entire traditional banking system obsolete. Here are the details:

Other proposals would create a new payments instrument, digital cash, which would be just like the physical currency issued by central banks today, but in a digital form and, potentially, without the anonymity of physical currency. Depending on how these currencies are designed, central banks could support them without the need for commercial bank involvement via direct issuance into the end-users’ digital wallets combined with central-bank-facilitated transfer and redemption services. The demand for and use of such instruments need further consideration in order to evaluate whether such a central bank digital currency would allow for quicker and more ubiquitous payments in times of emergency and more generally. In addition, a range of potential risks and policy issues surrounding central bank digital currency need to be better understood, and the costs and benefits evaluated.

The Federal Reserve has been researching issues raised by central bank digital currency for some time. The Board of Governors has a technology lab that has been building and testing a range of distributed ledger platforms to understand their potential benefits and tradeoffs. Staff members from several Reserve Banks, including Cleveland Fed software developers, are contributing to this effort. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is also engaged in a multiyear effort, working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to experiment with technologies that could be used for a central bank digital currency. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has established an innovation center, in partnership with the Bank for International Settlements, to identify and develop in-depth insights into critical trends and financial technology of relevance to central banks. Experimentation like this is an important ingredient in assessing the benefits and costs of a central bank digital currency, but does not signal any decision by the Federal Reserve to adopt such a currency. Issues raised by central bank digital currency related to financial stability, market structure, security, privacy, and monetary policy all need to be better understood.

To summarize, the wheels are already turning on a plan that sees the Fed depositing "digital dollars" to "each American", a stunning development that essentially sees the Fed bypass Congress, endowing the Central Bank with targeted "fiscal stimulus" capabilities, and which could lead to a dramatic reflationary spike as it is the lower income quartile segments of US society that are the marginal price setters for economic goods and services. And having already implemented Average Inflation Targeting, the resulting burst of inflation would be viewed by the Fed as insufficient on its own (as it would have to persist for a long time over the "average" period whatever it may end up being), to tighten monetary policy. In fact, even as inflation rages - which some alternative inflationary measures to CPI suggest it already is - the Fed will have a semantic loophole in explaining just why it needs to keep inflation scorching hot even as the standard of living in America collapses to the benefit of a handful of asset holders.

Why? The CBO showed the answer yesterday:

Absent a massive burst of inflation in the coming years which inflates away the hundreds of trillions in federal debt, the unprecedented debt tsunami that is coming would mean the end to the American way of life as we know it. And to do that, the Fed is now finalizing the last steps of a process that revolutionizes the entire fiat monetary system, launching digital dollars which effectively remove commercial banks as financial intermediaries, as they will allow the Fed itself to make direct deposits into Americans' "digital wallets", in the process also making Congress and the entire Legislative branch redundant, as a handful of technocrats quietly take over the United States.

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Could investing in bonds yield better returns than equities in 2023?

It’s not news that 2022 has been a tough one for stock markets. There have been sectors, like energy and utilities, that…
The post Could investing…

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It’s not news that 2022 has been a tough one for stock markets. There have been sectors, like energy and utilities, that have bucked the negative trend but the big picture has been bleak. The UK’s large cap FTSE 100 index has faired better than most and is more or less flat for the year thanks to its heavy weighting towards energy, industrial commodities, and finance.

Source: CSIMarket

But it’s been a volatile ride and the end of the year could still drag London’s benchmark index into the red.

ftse100index

Over in the USA, the major indices have suffered significant losses. The growth companies, especially in the tech sector, that saw Wall Street enjoy over a decade of strong growth with only the occasional short-lived correction have been among those hit hardest by inflation hitting decades-long highs and interest rates rising.

That’s seen the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite register an over 30% loss for the year-to-date and the broader based S&P 500 is down a little under 18% over 2022.

nasdaq composite

However, while the hangover from the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were unpredictable events that have undoubtedly deepened stock market losses, a turn of the market cycle is not a surprise. The bull market that preceded the 2022 bear market was the longest in history, supported by unprecedented levels of quantitative easing and record-low interest rates in major developed economies.

If anything, the surprise was that the bull market for equities persisted for as long as it did and pushed valuations so high. More bearish analysts had been warning of a reversal for years before it actually transpired.

What has been far more surprising, almost unprecedented, is that bond markets have failed to live up to their traditional portfolio role of providing insurance against an equities bear market. When equities, especially growth stocks, enter bear territory, bonds usually go in the opposite direction, rising with interest rates and an influx of capital seeking a safe haven.

Traditionally, a portfolio with a 60% allocation to equities and 40% allocation to bonds should come into its own during periods like this year. The bond allocation would be expected to cushion the blow of an equities bear market, paying its way for lower returns than equities during the good times.

But in the third quarter of this year, a traditionally conservative portfolio with a 40% allocation to equities would have actually underperformed one 100% allocated to equities. Inflation remaining stubbornly high this year despite the Fed and other central banks including the Bank of England has upended the conventional investing wisdom that equities and bonds do not both move in the same direction – the foundational principle of traditional diversification strategies.

But will that change in 2023? Could bonds outperform equities next year in a way that means investors should consider increasing their portfolio weighting towards fixed-income investments?

Why have bonds not lived up to their billing in 2022?

Nothing has worked well for diversified investors this year, not equities, not bonds and not the traditional 60/40 portfolio split between the two asset classes. But will this year prove a blip or has the relationship bet equities and bonds changed fundamentally?

Analysts including Morningstar’s Lauren Solberg believe the performance of the bond market next year will be most influenced by inflation. If inflation remains high, bonds could continue to struggle alongside equities. However, if major central banks including the Fed manage to wrestle inflation back down towards target levels, especially if that is accompanied by a recession, bonds would be expected to revert to their traditional anti-correlation with equities.

This year, one they would have been expected to benefit from a flight from equities and rising interest rates, has been the worst for bonds in modern history. It’s also been the only time in history that stocks and bonds have both recorded losses for three consecutive quarters.

chart2

Source: Morningstar

Sky-high inflation, which is bad for both equities and bonds, has negated the usually positive impact on bonds of a bear market for equities and rising interest rates.

Will bonds return to form in 2023?

There is differing opinion among analysts and market observers about what 2023 might hold in store for bond markets. The more common expectation is that bonds will do a much better job at insulating portfolios than this year with yields now much higher than they were in late 2021.

However, others believe that a secular change in the correlation relationship between equities and bonds is now underway. That is based on the expectation that inflation, even if it falls meaningfully in 2023, could remain at higher levels and be more prone to volatility than it has been over the past couple of decades.

Recent research published by Truist Wealth shows that U.S. government-backed debt has delivered average annual returns of 6.6% over the past four recessions, beating both high-yield ‘junk’ and investment-grade corporate bonds. That would indicate 2023 could be a very good year for bond investors with the right exposure – a focus on government rather than private sector debt. However, we’ve already seen a significant divergence from historical patterns this year.

Marta Norton, chief investment officer for the Americas at Morningstar Investment Management, believes 2023 could be hold opportunities for fixed income, across government-backed and corporate bonds:

“When you look over the past 10 years, it’s really only been an equity story: It’s been such a good market to take on equity risk, a tremendously good time to be an equity investor. But today, it’s harder to know where to invest the marginal dollar. Fixed income is looking more appealing than it has in some time. You don’t have to take enormous risk to earn some return, and that’s a mindset shift to the environment we had before.”

While she acknowledges that U.S. equities now look a lot more attractively priced than they did a year ago, she cautions against investors rushing back to the market and thinks the bear cycle could last longer than many expect. She says the “buy the dip”mentality that has worked so well over the past decade could mean investors risk suffering meaningful losses by moving into a losing market.

She doesn’t advise not investing in equities but that investors should instead drip feed any investment instead of trying to time a bottom.

She is more confident in the opportunities around fixed income investments, especially higher-quality, shorter-dated fixed income, which she says comes with the added benefit of lower risk, especially if a deeper recession materialises.

Christian Mueller-Glissmann, head of asset allocation research within portfolio strategy at Goldman Sachs agrees. He notes the gap in yields between stock and bonds has narrowed substantially since the COVID-19 crisis and is now relatively low. The same is true for riskier credit, which yields relatively little compared with practically risk-free Treasuries and means investors are getting little premium for the risk of owning equities or high-yield credit in comparison to lower-risk bonds. As a result, equities and high-yield debt are particularly exposed to an economic slowdown or recession:

“That just makes equities and riskier debt very vulnerable for disappointments on growth next year”.

Lisa Shalett, chief investment officer of Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley is also championing bonds for 2023. She concludes:

“We continue to believe it is premature to call an end to the bear market for U.S. stocks. Investors may have moved on from inflation concerns, but they cannot ignore the economic picture. For now, investors should consider reducing U.S. large-cap index exposure. Instead, look to Treasuries, munis and investment-grade corporate credit. Stay patient and collect coupon income.”

What about UK Gilts vs London-listed equities?

Should investors mainly exposed to London-listed rather than Wall Street-based equities be thinking along similar lines? The FTSE 100 has remained largely flat in 2022, finally benefitting from its lack of growth stocks and heavy weighting to more traditional sectors like energy, commodities and finance.

London-listed equities were considered cheap before 2022, which is another reason valuations have not fallen in the same way as they have in the USA. On the other hand, they are also less likely to see as much upside if a recession is avoided next year and economic sentiment improves.

The FTSE 100 has also been boosted considerably by the soaring valuation of big energy companies like BP and Shell and utilities such as Centrica, which has compensated for companies in other sectors, such as consumer cyclicles, losing value. Energy prices easing off next year, which is by no means guaranteed depending on how geopolitical factors play out, would be negative for the benchmark index.

The UK’s outlook for both equities and government debt is not particularly positive. RBC Wealth Management summarises:

“A crippling cost of living, austerity measures, and the Bank of England tightening monetary policy will all conspire to create a prolonged recession in the UK, in our view. We advocate an underweight position in UK equities, although we are mindful that depressed valuations may produce interesting dividend income opportunities. We have a negative outlook on UK sovereign debt, as increased government debt issuance and the Bank of England proceeding to sell its Gilts portfolio will likely create a Gilt supply glut.”

While it may not appeal to patriotic sentiment, investors looking for the best risk-to-reward ratio in 2023 might be better served to invest in U.S. Treasuries than UK Gilts if a fixed income approach is favoured.

The post Could investing in bonds yield better returns than equities in 2023? first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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Call For Investigation Into Mortality Rates As Australia Sees Death-Rate Spike

Call For Investigation Into Mortality Rates As Australia Sees Death-Rate Spike

Authored by Victoria Kelly-Clark via The Epoch Times,

Australia has…

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Call For Investigation Into Mortality Rates As Australia Sees Death-Rate Spike

Authored by Victoria Kelly-Clark via The Epoch Times,

Australia has seen a spike in its mortality rates in 2022, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) stating that by the end of August 2022, 128,797 deaths had been registered, which is 18,671 deaths, or 17 percent, more than the historical average.

In the data release on Nov. 25, the ABS noted that of registered deaths; there had been a rise in the number of Australians dying from dementia (18.9 percent above the baseline average), diabetes (20.8 percent higher than the baseline average), cancer, and COVID-19.

Karen Cutter, a spokesperson for the Actuaries Institute of Australia (AIA) said in a media release (pdf) that even after the Institute’s COVID-19 Mortality Working Group removed all “from” and “with” COVID-19 deaths, it was not clear why Australians were dying in larger numbers from other diseases such as ischaemic heart disease, cancer, and cerebrovascular disease in 2021 and 2022.

In an analysis (pdf) from Nov. 3, the AIA noted that 1,200 more Australians had died from ischaemic heart disease than expected, while cerebrovascular disease had 450 more deaths than normal. Meanwhile, mortality rates from diabetes increased by 400 deaths, and dementia saw an extra 800 deaths.

According to the ABS, between January and August this year, 7,727 Australians died from COVID-19.

“It is not clear what might be driving this, although we expect that at least part of the excess will be in respect of people who otherwise may have succumbed to respiratory disease in 2020 and 2021,” said Cutter.

They also said that diabetes deaths have generally been higher than expected throughout the pandemic.

Cutter noted that the AIA had also noticed that of the excess deaths in the 0-44 and 45-64 age bands were small, and the number of women dying was higher than expected.

She has called on the federal government to launch an inquiry into the cause of the spike.

“The differences are worth investigation, although the small numbers mean that there is considerable natural variation,” she said.

Spiking Mortality Rates a Global Phenomenon

The spike in mortality rates is being experienced globally, with the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Sir Chris Whitty, as well as Sir Patrick Vallance, the country’s Chief Scientific Adviser, declaring the country is facing a “prolonged period” of excess deaths after people differed treatment during the initial stages of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the UK’s health secretary Steve Barclay said that the government needed to come clean about the excess deaths.

In a speech to the Spectator Health Summit in London on Nov. 28, Barclay said that the government must share the scale of the COVID backlog, which he estimated was now “around now 7.1 million patients.”

We know from the data that there are more 50-to 64-year olds with cardiovascular issues. It’s the result of delays in that age group seeing a GP because of the pandemic and, in some cases, not getting statins for hypertension in time,” he said.

“When coupled with delays in ambulance times, we see this reflected in the excess death numbers. In time, we may well see a similar challenge in cancer data,” Barclay said.

COVID-19 Lingering Effects

The AIA agrees that delayed medical treatment may be a cause behind Australia’s rising death rate.

In an analysis of the pandemic in 2022, they said that it was highly likely that delays in medical care was a contributing factor to the excess death rates from other diseases.

“Pressure on the health, hospital and aged care systems, including ambulance ramping and bed block, could lead to people not getting the care they require, either as they avoid seeking help, or their care is not as timely as it might have been in pre-pandemic times,” they said.

“There is some evidence that this may be affecting cancer deaths. It may also be a factor in higher deaths from other causes, such as ischaemic heart disease, diabetes, and the large ‘other’ category.”

They also noted that COVID-19 lingering health effects could also be contributing to the increased rates.

Studies show that coronavirus is associated with increased mortality risks from heart disease and other causes. However, because doctors certifying the death would not necessarily know of the infection if it had occurred months prior, this could demonstrate a causative link several months after recovery from COVID-19.

Tyler Durden Thu, 12/08/2022 - 21:00

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Aura Private Credit: Letter to investors 09 December 2022

This week the RBA increased the Cash Rate by a further 25 basis points to 3.1 per cent. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed quarter on…

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This week the RBA increased the Cash Rate by a further 25 basis points to 3.1 per cent. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed quarter on quarter GDP growth of 0.6 per cent and 5.9 per cent year on year for the September quarter. The Household savings ratio continued to fall to near pre-pandemic levels.​

Economic Growth and Household Spending 1, ​2, 3​

Gross Domestic Product displayed early signs of cooling to near normal growth rates after seeing considerable growth following the conclusion of the 2021 lockdowns. September’s 0.6 per cent quarterly growth rate annualised is 2.4 per cent, however, growth in the 12 months to September 2022 reads 5.9 per cent. RBA Governor Phillip Lowe commented on Tuesday (6th of December) that the RBA’s central forecast is for growth of around 1½ per cent in 2023 and 2024.

While household spending was the largest contributor to quarterly growth, discretionary consumption has been increasing at a decelerating rate. However, it remains elevated, with the last four quarterly reads being 15.1 per cent (Dec 21), 4.0 per cent (Mar 22), 3.9 per cent (Jun 22) and 1.8 per cent (Sep 22). For context, the pre-pandemic average, measured from September 2014 to December 2019, is 0.53 per cent.

The household savings ratio continued to fall, arriving at 6.9 per cent in September 2022. This sits only slightly above the pre-pandemic average of 6.0 per cent (Sep 2014 – December 2019) and has shown early signs of a mean reversion as the fall decelerates. The reduction in savings ratio can most prominently be explained by the continued (yet slowing) increases in discretionary spending and increased mortgage servicing costs as the RBA Cash Rate climbs higher.

Monetary Policy Decision – December 2022 3, 4​

On 6th of December the RBA Board decided to increase the Cash Rate by a further 25 basis points, taking the official rate to 3.1 per cent. Governor Lowe commented that inflation is still too high. Despite the slight month on month decline in the read for the 12 months to October 2022 (6.9 per cent) (as opposed to the 12 months to September 2022, 7.3 per cent), the RBA expects inflation to peak at around 8 per cent over the 12 months to the December quarter before receding from next year and landing slightly above 3 per cent over 2024.

Governor Lowe’s statement in the closing paragraph made it very clear that the Board expects to increase interest rates further over the period ahead, but it is not on a pre-set course. As seen below, the market, as at market close on December 7th priced in a peak Cash Rate of 3.655 per cent in October/November of next year. 

The continual increase in rates can benefit returns for credit investors, as the return on floating rate deals increase and maturing short duration fixed rate exposures are able to be repriced upon redeployment. However, we are conscious of the stress this environment places on both households and businesses. Afterall, the RBA’s objective is to force a reduction in consumption via eroded disposable income after debt servicing costs. As was the case throughout the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021—as well as the market turmoil earlier in 2022—we will maintain frequent dialogue with the lenders we work with, keeping a close eye on the book as we transition to the new interest rate environment.

1Australian Bureau of Statistics – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product – September 2022

2Australian Bureau of Statistics – Monthly Household Spending Indicator – October 2022

3Reserve Bank of Australia – Statement by Phillip Lowe, Governor: Monetary Policy Decision – December 2022

4Australian Bureau of Statistics – Monthly Consumer Price Index Indicator – October 2022

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