By the start of the 1960s, banking in America was in a state of flux.
Boundaries were being blurred - especially those separating "commercial banks" and "investment banks" under Depression-era Glass-Steagall parameters. The banking landscape was shifting. In fact, it was about to go volcanic.
The Truman Administration had championed the break-up of bank cartel arrangements, whereby a powerful coterie of commercial-bank bond underwriters controlled how corporations financed debt and who got to distribute bond offerings. Subsequent regulatory changes (requiring bidding for underwriting assignments) broke up the "Gentleman Bankers Code," which had been code for cartel.
A more competitive landscape drove banks to expand. Branch banking spread through shopping malls and onto prime locations on America's Main Streets.
The hunt for deposits was on.
And it got ugly fast...
The New Crisis Warning Just Issued to the Federal Reserve
Before the housing market crash, economists warned that record low-interest and mortgage rates were fueling a housing bubble.
Unfortunately, those fears were both overlooked and underestimated.
Now, an advisory council to the U.S. Federal Reserve is warning the Fed that its record $85 billon-a-month stimulus and ultra-low interest rates are fueling new bubbles in student loans and farmland.
"Recent growth in student-loan debt, to nearly $1 trillion, now exceeds credit-card outstandings and has parallels to the housing crisis," according to minutes of the council's Feb. 8 meeting.
In addition, "agricultural land prices are veering further from what makes sense," the council said. "Members believe the run-up in agriculture land prices is a bubble resulting from persistently low interest rates."
These warnings come from the Federal Advisory Council, a panel of 12 bankers chosen by the 12 Federal Reserve banks, which consults with and advises the Fed. Members of the council include the CEOs of Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), State Street Corp. (NYSE: SST), BB&T Corp. (NYSE: BBT), Bank of Montreal (NYSE: BMO), Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF) , U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB) and the former CEO of PNC Financial Services (NYSE: PNC).
What's more, the council warned the Fed in September that QE3 and its plan to buy bonds indefinitely would distort bond prices and have a limited impact on the economy and that "uncertain effects" will arise from the eventual unwinding of the balance sheet, including "risks to price and financial stability."
So while Uncle Ben likes to remind us that the Fed will step in and take appropriate fiscal measures when necessary, the central bank's own council believes the Fed's actions are doing more harm than good.
What You Absolutely Need to Know About Money (Part 6)
Our last chapter was about how the U.S. Federal Reserve was created and why. But it ended with an extreme example of how the universal central banking model works today.
As another domino threatened the house of cards holding up European banks, more money had to be pumped into Cypriot banks so their doors didn't close and rapid contagion wouldn't implode all of Europe, and then the world.
Only this time was different.
The European Central Bank (ECB) reached straight into Cypriot bank depositors' pockets and stole about $6 billion from them. The "how" isn't important. It's a simple equation, as revealed in Part V. Governments are the backstoppers of central banks; that's where their authority ultimately comes from.
Why did the ECB steal depositors' money? So they could turn around and lend that and more to the insolvent banks to keep them alive. It's the latest twist in the old "extend and pretend" game.
The big question is, how did banks get so big and so dangerous in the first place?
Or, how did stodgy traditional banking morph into "casino banking" on a global scale?
Here's how it started...
What You Absolutely Need to Know About Money (Part 5)
Chapter Four ended as a cartel of powerful bankers gathered on Jekyll Island to develop a plan for creating a central banking system which would work for their interests.
John Pierpont Morgan was no stranger to how central banks worked. He had witnessed their power firsthand.
Junius S. Morgan, Pierpont's father, became a partner at George Peabody and Company in 1854 and moved to London - where the American-born Peabody had been bankrolled by Baron Nathan Mayer Rothschild. At the time, the rich and powerful Rothschilds exerted extraordinary control over the Bank of England.
George Peabody and Company rode the mania for railroad shares, whose prices in 1857 were benefiting from the Crimean War's impact on rising grain prices, which Western railroads transported in huge quantities.
But the good times didn't last.
FOMC Preview: Will the Fed Continue its $85B/Month Bond-Buying Program?
Investors will be looking to the Federal Reserve Wednesday for clues about how long it might continue its bond-buying program aimed at pushing interest rates down.
The Federal Open Market Committee is expected to release a policy statement at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, the second day of its two-day meeting.
In keeping with a practice it began last January, the first meeting of the new year will highlight the FOMC's long-term goals and monetary policy.
The Central Bank likely will reiterate the goal it has maintained all of last year: boosting the stagnant U.S. economy.The Fed's first meeting of 2013 comes after an extraordinarily busy year, capped by two key moves in December.
That's when the Fed said it would continue spending $85 billion a month on bond purchases to keep interest rates low. At the same time, the Fed set unemployment and inflation "thresholds" instead of a date when the central bank expected to be able to raise interest rates.
Bernanke Testimony to Congress: The World According to the Federal Reserve
The U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testimony to Congress ended ahead of schedule today (Thursday) in the Senate, reiterating the same tame message he communicated to the House yesterday: The Fed thinks the economy will grow modestly.
"We don't see at this point that the very severe recession has permanently affected the growth potential of the U.S. economy," Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee in his twice annual economic testimony to Congress.
Here's a look at what Team Bernanke does see in the economy:
Bernanke Testimony to Congress
No Additional Stimulus
Bernanke said elevated unemployment and subdued inflationary pressures support low interest rates into 2014, but did not give a hint of any additional stimulus measures.
Bernanke also defended previous stimulus measures, which have drawn criticism for not being worth their hefty price tags.
"If you look back at Quantitative Easing 2, so called, in November 2010, concerns at the time were that it would be a high inflationary environment, it would hurt the dollar, it would not have much effect on growth, etcetera," said Bernanke. "But since November 2010, we have had since then the QE2 and the so-called Operation Twist, we have had about 2-1/2 million jobs created, we have seen big gains in stock prices, we have seen big improvements in credit markets, the dollar is about flat, commodity prices excluding oil are not much changed, inflation is doing well in the sense that we are looking for about a 2 percent inflation rate this year."
To continue reading, please click here...
The One Question We Must All Ask Ourselves
Rampant profiteering by Congress and greedy bankers is forcing us to weigh the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune against honesty and transparency - both of which are being trampled by crony capitalists in pursuit of the almighty dollar.
What's at stake is whether gross criminal activity and reckless disregard for the public will continue to be whitewashed by regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. Federal Reserve, courts, and Congress, which encourage half-baked civil fraud charges followed by non-prosecution agreements and nickel-and-dime fines.
And even more galling, guilty parties end up neither admitting nor denying wrongdoing.
Let's face it, we have allowed the SEC, the Fed, and Congress to be corralled as a matter of regulatory and legislative capture by the very crooks they are responsible for policing and protecting us from.
We are lying to ourselves if we do not believe that we are all part of this problem. It's not that most of us aren't honest. It's that we venerate money and wealth too much.
Rather than being disgusted by dishonest manipulators, liars and cheats, we excuse the less-than-obvious perpetrators as if their example of cutting corners to get ahead, as far ahead as possible, might clear a path for some of our own pursuits.
What have we become? Are we a nation of people with liberty and justice for all, or just a bunch of money grabbers stepping on each other's liberties to pursue self-centered happiness by becoming filthy rich?
Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with the profit motive driving business. And there's nothing wrong with working hard and trying to make a lot of money. Those are honorable pursuits.
President Calvin Coolidge said: "The chief business of the American people is business."
But in the same speech made on January 17, 1925 our 30th president went on to say: "Of course the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence."
Tragically, the fountainhead of greed in America emanates from our own Congress. It has become obvious that the accumulation of personal wealth is their primary civic duty.
To continue reading, please click here...
Out of Answers, Federal Reserve Can Only Offer Empty Rhetoric
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is scheduled to issue a statement at 2:15 pm. today (Tuesday), but don't expect anything other than more empty rhetoric.
Indeed, with few options remaining, the Fed is expected to produce little more than a statement designed to reassure the markets following today's meeting.
"If the Fed were smart, they would use this meeting to take decisive action," said Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald. "Sadly, though, I think they'll lay low and issue yet more hollow statements filled with information that at this point constitutes less than fluff."
At this point, few bullets remain in the Fed's chamber; interest rates have been near-zero for almost three years, and two programs of "quantitative easing" over the past two years have pumped $2.3 trillion into the U.S. economy.
In an attempt to show it was doing something to help the economy, the central bank said last summer that it would maintain rates at that level until mid-2013.
And while the Federal Reserve is not expected to announce immediate plans for more quantitative easing - QE3 - many believe some sort of accommodation, probably directed at the housing market, is coming next year.
"There is a 75% chance the Fed will buy mortgage-backed securities in the first half of the year, possibly by January," Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP LLC, told MarketWatch.
A series of relatively positive economic reports in recent weeks - unemployment recently dropped to 8.6%, while consumer spending and manufacturing have edged upward - has eased the pressure on the Fed to take any more action this year.
As part of its strategy to maintain optimism in the markets, the FOMC will likely promise to pump more money into the U.S. economy at some point next year.
"The numbers are getting better, but not enough to keep [the FOMC] complacent," Crandalltold MarketWatch.
Word GamesRecognizing that its options are limited, the Federal Reserve instead will focus today on the one thing it can provide in near-limitless supply - words. Today's meeting is expected to focus on a new communications strategy that will offer more details on the Fed's goals for inflation and unemployment - its dual mandate - and how it plans to meet them.
To continue reading, please click here...
Jim Rogers: "The Fed is Lying to Us"
Despite statements to the contrary, the U.S. Federal Reserve has continued to pump money into the economy, says investing legend Jim Rogers.
The resulting low interest rates and creeping inflation, he says, are destroying the wealth of millions.
"[Federal Reserve Chairman Ben] Bernanke said last August he was keeping interest rates artificially low," Rogers told Yahoo! Financeon Tuesday. "The only way you can do that is to go into the market."
As proof, Rogers pointed to the rise in the broad M2 measure of the U.S. money supply, which has increased more than 5% since the Fed's second quantitative easing program (QE2) ended on June 30, and 20% since November 2008.
"Since August - well, this whole year - the M2 has jumped up," Rogers said. "They're in the market. They're lying to us."
A well-known critic of the Fed who has called for it to be abolished, Rogers warned that the central bank's policies would lead to disaster.
"Right now what the Federal Reserve is doing is ruining an entire class of people in America," Rogers said. "The people who saved and invested for the past 10, 20, 30 years are now being ruined because interest rates are [too] low."
He added that if he were Fed chairman, he'd raise interest rates to slow down inflation.
In a separate interview with The Streetyesterday (Wednesday), Rogers said he considered the Fed to be the greatest risk to the U.S. economy in 2012.
"They don't seem to understand economics or finance or currencies or much of anything else except printing money," Rogers said.
Painful RemediesThe other major concern that Rogers has is the soaring federal debt, which recently passed $15 trillion.
"We are the largest debtor nation in the history of the world and the debts are going higher and higher by trillions, every two or three years," Rogers said. "We're all paying the price for it. And wait till 2013 - we're really going to pay the price."
To continue reading, please click here...
Two Ways to Tell if the U.S. Economy is Ready to Get Back on its Feet
The U.S. economy has been crippled by the financial crisis. And regardless of what policymakers try to do to spur growth, it will hobble along lamely until two major economic pillars are rectified.
Simply put, there's no chance that stock investors will see a healthy, long-term bull market until credit again begins to flow freely and home prices start rising.
Unfortunately, neither the credit market nor the housing market is yet ready to lead a sustainable economic rebound. But knowing that these are the two legs on which our economy stands, we can effectively gauge their condition, and thus be better able to predict a stock market rally.
Let me explain.
To find out how you can effectively diagnose the economic recovery read on...