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Old 11-16-2010, 09:25 AM
Franc Tireur Franc Tireur is offline
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Fed May Go Bankrupt

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Jim Rickards continues to illustrate that he is one of the truly brilliant and original thinkers in today’s financial world. Jim’s latest piece exclusively for the King World News blog is a must read. Here Jim discusses the Fed going bankrupt, “Right now the Fed’s balance sheet shows about $57 billion in total capital. Current assets are about $2.3 trillion. The current money-printing plan will take total assets above $3 trillion. At that level, it only takes a 2% decline in asset values to wipe out the Fed’s capital. Put differently, it only takes a 2% drop in the average value of assets on the Fed’s balance sheet for the Fed to go bankrupt. And this is in an environment where various markets frequently go up and down 3% in a single day.”

Disasters sometimes sneak up in small steps, each of which appears unthreatening at the time but which cumulatively spell collapse. The Fed is leading the United States to ruin in ways that are claimed to be well intentioned and benign viewed in isolation but which take us finally into a locked room reminiscent of the Sartre play “No Exit.”

The Fed has finally embarked on QE2, the best publicized journey since the flight of Balloon Boy to which quantitative easing might well be compared. Of course, quantitative easing, or QE, is just a euphemism for what is really going on. We’ll skip the Orwellian Newspeak of QE and stick to the Oldspeak –printing money.

How does the Fed print money? It’s easy; they simply buy bonds from the market and credit the seller’s bank account with electronic cash that comes out of thin air. When they want to reduce the money supply, they do the opposite; that is, they sell bonds and the buyer’s bank account is reduced by the sale price and that money disappears. So, printing money is just a massive program of bond purchases. The Fed intends to concentrate the current bond buying program in the intermediate sector of 5 to 10-year maturities.

As a result, the Fed is coming to resemble a highly leveraged hedge fund with an inverted pyramid of risky, volatile and junk debt balanced on a slim layer of capital. Recall the Fed owns the Maiden Lane portfolio of junk from Bear Stearns and $1.4 trillion of mortgages whose value is in serious doubt because of strategic defaults, lost notes and halted foreclosures. Treasury notes may be of good credit quality if you don’t mind getting paid back in debased dollars but even Treasury notes have market risk. If interest rates go up, the value of Treasury notes goes down; it’s that simple. The Fed is taking both credit risk and market risk on its balance sheet in unprecedented amounts.

Right now the Fed’s balance sheet shows about $57 billion in total capital. Current assets are about $2.3 trillion. The current money-printing plan will take total assets above $3 trillion. At that level, it only takes a 2% decline in asset values to wipe out the Fed’s capital. Put differently, it only takes a 2% drop in the average value of assets on the Fed’s balance sheet for the Fed to go bankrupt. And this is in an environment where various markets frequently go up and down 3% in a single day.

How risky is the Fed’s program of bond purchases? Very. For those who are not bond traders, here are a few quick pointers. First off, intermediate term securities are more volatile than short-term securities. The Fed traditionally purchases Treasury bills of one-year or less in maturity. Those bills are not volatile at all and don’t move much in price when interest rates change. So, mark-to-market losses are never that great. But 10-year notes are highly volatile and losses can be huge in response to even modest increases in interest rates. Secondly, with the Fed composing such a large part of the Treasury market, liquidity will decrease as fewer participants buy and sell each day due to the Fed’s dominant role. This means bid/offer spreads will widen making it very costly for the Fed to unload their position if they want to. If the Fed is selling, who on earth wants to buy? Finally, there is a concept called “DVO1” which is market jargon for the “dollar value of 1 basis point”. This is a measure of how much a bond goes down in price in response to a 1 basis point increase in interest rates. It happens that DVO1 is greater as interest rates are lower. In other words, the decline in price of a bond in response to a 1 basis point increase in rates is greater when rates are at 1% than if they are at 5%. This element of volatility is independent of the fact that longer maturities are more volatile, so having longer maturities and a low-rate environment is like soaking C4 plastic explosives in nitroglycerine.
http://kingworldnews.com/kingworldne..._Bankrupt.html

Another great source of information uncensured: King World News
 
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