Printing Price Volatility

This note was originally published at 8am this morning, December 06, 2010. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“If the government owns all of the printing presses, it will determine what is to be printed and what is not to be printed.”

-Ludwig von Mises

On a flight to Calgary, Alberta yesterday I was reviewing “Economic Policy – Thoughts For Today and Tomorrow” by Austrian economist, historian, and philosopher Ludwig von Mises. His book, published by The Liberty Fund, compiles the following 6 lectures that von Mises gave in Argentina in 1959:

  1. “Capitalism”
  2. “Socialism”
  3. “Interventionism”
  4. “Inflation” 
  5. “Foreign Investment”
  6. “Politics and Ideas”

This book is only 75 pages long and sits amongst the classics in my library. The deep simplicity that von Mises achieves in explaining complex macro-economic issues is unrivalled. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for the opposing argument to Big Government Intervention.

In the coming weeks I’ll refer to these lectures, quoting one of the founding fathers of libertarian free-market thinking whenever the opportunity presents itself. After watching a completely politicized head of the US Federal Reserve telling stories on 60 Minutes last night, one of those opportunities is now.

Post Ben Bernanke’s interview, the #1 headline on Bloomberg this morning should shock anyone considering this country’s constitutional underpinnings: “Bernanke Says Fed May Take More Action To Curb Joblessness”… One man, one ideology, one power to print money…

Before I get into what The Ber-nank’s professional politicking for additional Quantitative Guessing (otherwise known as printing moneys) entailed, let’s take a step back and re-read what the US Federal Reserve said most recently about its go forward QG2 strategy:

“The Committee will regularly review the pace of its securities purchases and the overall size of the asset-purchase program in light of incoming information and will adjust the program as needed to best foster maximum employment and price stability."

 

In English, sans le Greenspan-esque obscurity, this means that the Bernanke Fed’s goals are:

  1. Fostering maximum employment
  2. Fostering price stability

Sounds nice, in theory…  but last week’s US Unemployment rate hitting a new high of 9.8% was an unmitigated train-wreck on point #1 and on point #2, never mind “price stability”… Ben Bernanke is fostering some of the highest levels of price volatility that modern markets have ever seen. How about fostering some accountability, dude.

Look at last week’s week-over-week percentage moves:

  1. SP500 = +2.9%
  2. CRB Commodities Index = +5.0%
  3. Oil = +6.5%
  4. Gold = +3.1%
  5. Copper = +6.1%
  6. VIX = -18.9%

Bernanke must be kidding himself, because he certainly isn’t kidding me. That VIX (Volatility) decline of -18.9% week-over-week came the week after the VIX rocketed +23.2% higher. At this point, he’s Printing Price Volatility in volatility itself!

Let’s go back to some of The Ber-nank’s key statements on 60 Minutes:

  1. On Growth – “we’re not very far from the level where the economy is not self sustaining…”
  2. On Employment – “it takes about 2.5% growth just to keep unemployment stable…”
  3. On Inflation – “fears of inflation are overstated…”

In response, I guess my first question is, according to who? The man’s macro-economic conclusions are littered with ideology and inaccuracy. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that Ben Bernanke speaks this academic dogma out loud to the world. After all, it’s better to remain a humble looking man who knows nothing about the interconnectedness of global macro markets and says nothing, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

Rather than take my word for it on this global Fiat Experiment gone bad, I can only hope at this point that the people of the world look at real-time market prices (price instability) and the outcomes of these Greenspan and Bernanke interventions on both the sustainability of growth and employment. The records speak for themselves.

As for a solution to this mess. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – the first solution is to STOP – that’s it. Stop this man from doing what he is doing in perpetuating all-time highs in the price of the #1 food staple for 3 BILLION people (rice) and anything else for that matter that’s priced in the dollars that he is on a mission to debauch.

Finally, I’d like to submit a few passages from Ludwig von Mises 3rd lecture, called “Interventionism”:

“The idea of government interference as a “solution” to economic problems leads, in every country, to conditions which, at the least, are very unsatisfactory and often quite chaotic. If the government does not stop in time, it will bring on socialism.” (“Economic Policy”, page 38)

“Is there a remedy  against such happenings? I would say, yes, there is a remedy. And this remedy is the power of the citizens; they have to prevent the establishment of such an autocratic regime that arrogates to itself a higher wisdom than that of the average citizen. This is the fundamental difference between freedom and serfdom.” (“Economic Policy”, page 39)

Stop. Listen. Re-think.

My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are now 1199 and 1229, respectively.

Best of luck out there today,

KM

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

Printing Price Volatility - Bernanke EL PNG