As the Fed Turns

I was flying to the UK on Friday so I missed the second 3 percent drop in the stock market in three weeks. When I landed I discovered that Everyone is agreed that President Trump is to blame because of his tweets jawboning the Fed to lower interest rates.

Well I’m not a credentialed journalist or a credentialed economist or a credentialed central banker, but all I can say is that I have been worried about the inverted yield curve for months.

The inverted yield curve is when short-term rates for U.S. Treasury securities are higher than longer-term rates. Right now for August 23, 2019, from the Treasury website, 1-month T-bills are yielding 2.07%, 5-year Notes are yielding 1.40%, and 30-year Bonds are yielding 2.02%. Not good, according to my understanding of the credit markets.

In healthy credit markets with economic growth as far as the eye can see, the 1-month T-bill has the lowest rate, and all longer-term Treasury securities have progressively higher rates. The yield curve is right-side up.

Why does this matter?

My understanding is that, in order for banks and other intermediaries in the credit markets to stay in business, the Treasury yield curve must be right-side up. This is because your banks and other credit intermediaries borrow short-term -- such as borrowing from you in your checking account -- and lend long -- such as lending to you for your mortgage. They need the longer-term rate to be higher than the short-term rate in order to make a profit.

So, if you are a credentialed central banker, in my understanding, you fix the inverted yield curve with interest rate cuts, to avoid a nasty recession. Pronto.

Now I don’t know if President Trump is on the right track by beating up on the Chinese, or teaching the French a lesson by taxing their wine if they tax our tech moguls. That is for the credentialed experts to decide.

All I know is that when the Treasury yield curve goes inverted I get as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof. And, apparently, so does the president.

And I don’t believe that the credentialed experts have a clue what they are doing, on the Treasury yield curve or anything else.

For instance, how come the credentialed experts didn’t have economic and monetary models that could forecast the Crash of 2008 and propose comprehensive and mandatory policies to stop it dead in its tracks the way that the “intelligence community” so expertly stopped Russian collusion in its tracks prior to the 2016 election?

How come the credentialed economists and their economic models failed to predict in the 2000s -- and get the credentialed journalists at the New York Times up to speed -- that the Fannie/Freddie mortgage subsidy game was a disaster waiting to happen? How come the credentialed credit experts were not telling us that the Lehman Brothers laundering of sub-prime mortgages with derivative contracts was doomed to failure?

How come that little Ben Bernanke, the highly credentialed Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, choked in the Fall of 2008, whining that he didn’t have the legal authority to bail out bankrupt Lehman Brothers? How come he didn’t pull his well-thumbed copy of Walter Bagehot’s Lombard Street off the shelf and remind himself that the central bank is the “lender of last resort” and that means exactly what it says? And that he would bail out Lehman Brothers even if it meant he went to jail? Or worse, have to sit in front of idiot congressional committees for months at a time as the credentialed politicians wisely sifted over his actions to determine the chapter and verse of mistakes that he had made?

By the way, did you know that in the Great Bailout of 2008 the biggest item was not the $0.7 trillion of the TARP bailout but the $17 trillion in guarantees for, e.g., money-market mutual funds?

Do you see the issue here? Maybe, the only thing that the Feds needed to do in September 2008 was to issue guarantees all round. And then no Lehman Brothers failure and no Great Recession and no doubling of the National Debt. Whaddya think of that, credentialed experts?

Anyway, here we are in late Summer 2019 with an inverted yield curve, Trump jawboning the Fed, the credentialed experts of the world throwing themselves on their fainting couches, the credentialed blue-checks on social media offended by Trump’s offer to buy Greenland, and the stock market taking a 3 percent drop every week or so.

And the New York Times is convinced, with its 1619 project, that we all need to know about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is how slavery and racism explain everything about the United States in the runup to the 2020 election.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.

I was flying to the UK on Friday so I missed the second 3 percent drop in the stock market in three weeks. When I landed I discovered that Everyone is agreed that President Trump is to blame because of his tweets jawboning the Fed to lower interest rates.

Well I’m not a credentialed journalist or a credentialed economist or a credentialed central banker, but all I can say is that I have been worried about the inverted yield curve for months.

The inverted yield curve is when short-term rates for U.S. Treasury securities are higher than longer-term rates. Right now for August 23, 2019, from the Treasury website, 1-month T-bills are yielding 2.07%, 5-year Notes are yielding 1.40%, and 30-year Bonds are yielding 2.02%. Not good, according to my understanding of the credit markets.

In healthy credit markets with economic growth as far as the eye can see, the 1-month T-bill has the lowest rate, and all longer-term Treasury securities have progressively higher rates. The yield curve is right-side up.

Why does this matter?

My understanding is that, in order for banks and other intermediaries in the credit markets to stay in business, the Treasury yield curve must be right-side up. This is because your banks and other credit intermediaries borrow short-term -- such as borrowing from you in your checking account -- and lend long -- such as lending to you for your mortgage. They need the longer-term rate to be higher than the short-term rate in order to make a profit.

So, if you are a credentialed central banker, in my understanding, you fix the inverted yield curve with interest rate cuts, to avoid a nasty recession. Pronto.

Now I don’t know if President Trump is on the right track by beating up on the Chinese, or teaching the French a lesson by taxing their wine if they tax our tech moguls. That is for the credentialed experts to decide.

All I know is that when the Treasury yield curve goes inverted I get as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof. And, apparently, so does the president.

And I don’t believe that the credentialed experts have a clue what they are doing, on the Treasury yield curve or anything else.

For instance, how come the credentialed experts didn’t have economic and monetary models that could forecast the Crash of 2008 and propose comprehensive and mandatory policies to stop it dead in its tracks the way that the “intelligence community” so expertly stopped Russian collusion in its tracks prior to the 2016 election?

How come the credentialed economists and their economic models failed to predict in the 2000s -- and get the credentialed journalists at the New York Times up to speed -- that the Fannie/Freddie mortgage subsidy game was a disaster waiting to happen? How come the credentialed credit experts were not telling us that the Lehman Brothers laundering of sub-prime mortgages with derivative contracts was doomed to failure?

How come that little Ben Bernanke, the highly credentialed Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, choked in the Fall of 2008, whining that he didn’t have the legal authority to bail out bankrupt Lehman Brothers? How come he didn’t pull his well-thumbed copy of Walter Bagehot’s Lombard Street off the shelf and remind himself that the central bank is the “lender of last resort” and that means exactly what it says? And that he would bail out Lehman Brothers even if it meant he went to jail? Or worse, have to sit in front of idiot congressional committees for months at a time as the credentialed politicians wisely sifted over his actions to determine the chapter and verse of mistakes that he had made?

By the way, did you know that in the Great Bailout of 2008 the biggest item was not the $0.7 trillion of the TARP bailout but the $17 trillion in guarantees for, e.g., money-market mutual funds?

Do you see the issue here? Maybe, the only thing that the Feds needed to do in September 2008 was to issue guarantees all round. And then no Lehman Brothers failure and no Great Recession and no doubling of the National Debt. Whaddya think of that, credentialed experts?

Anyway, here we are in late Summer 2019 with an inverted yield curve, Trump jawboning the Fed, the credentialed experts of the world throwing themselves on their fainting couches, the credentialed blue-checks on social media offended by Trump’s offer to buy Greenland, and the stock market taking a 3 percent drop every week or so.

And the New York Times is convinced, with its 1619 project, that we all need to know about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is how slavery and racism explain everything about the United States in the runup to the 2020 election.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.