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What's So "Open" About the Federal Open Market Committee?
Don't you just love how some things are named?
Like the Federal Reserve System, for instance. It's a central bank that was conceived in the private study of a private hunting lodge on a private island by a bunch of private bankers who didn't want to use the word "bank" in its name to fool taxpayers who thought it was a "system" to safeguard the public... from the very bankers who conceived it.
I don't know about you, but the feeling of safety I have is just overwhelming... NOT.
Then there's the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). That's a committee of top plotters that meets in private to discuss what's going on in "free" markets so they can figure out how to manipulate them.
The Open Market Committee, or the Old Boys Club (they have a woman on the committee, but she's just a token "dove" who plays "Follow the Beard"), meets today and Wednesday to check on how their manipulations have stopped unruly free markets from sinking the banks that secretly run the Fed (you know it's not a secret, but there are a whole lot of taxpayers who don't).
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Keith Fitz-Gerald: "Big Buying Opportunities" Created By This Week's Fed Meeting
Stock Market Today Reflects Strong Reliance on FOMC Meeting
Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 172.02, or 1.14%, at 15,242.20. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index soared 16.43, or 1.01%, at 1,643.16. The Nasdaq jumped 40.11, or 1.17%, at 3,463.67.
The stock market fell sharply Friday, logging its third weekly loss in the past four weeks. Investors were jittery ahead of this week's Fed meeting. The Dow experienced its fourth straight triple-digit move, ending a volatile week down 1.2%.
The S&P, one day after enjoying its best session since Jan. 2, gave back 9.63 points, or 0.6%. For the week, the S&P retreated 1% and the Nasdaq lost 21.81, or 0.6%.
"Markets are more fragile now, whereas they had been bulletproof by the bulls for the last six months," Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading told CNBC. "Unfortunately, the only thing that everyone cares about is what the Fed's doing and that's troubling, when we should be looking at economic data, fundamentals and corporate profits...There are still warning signs being flagged right now and people are getting concerned.
Monday, investors appeared to be betting the Fed will stand pat.
Do We Really Need the Federal Reserve System?
Abolishing the Federal Reserve System might seem like a drastic idea, but not when you get the full story...
You see, Congress created the U.S. Federal Reserve System to restore public confidence, provide the banking system a source of liquidity that would prevent its collapse and protect the public against inflation.
A century later, the banking system is so big its risks dwarf the Fed's liquidity capacity, and what cost a buck back then now will set you back $21.
That's why we asked Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald to explain how the Federal Reserve System actually helps a country's economy.
Most importantly, we wanted to know if the United States - or any country - even needs the Fed anymore.
What You Absolutely Need to Know About Money (Part 8)
It all starts with the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74.
The Arab members of OPEC proclaimed an oil embargo to punish the U.S. for aiding Israel. This action quadrupled the price of oil, roiling commodity markets, equities, bonds, and foreign exchange markets.
Energy prices soared. Speculation in oil exploration and production became feverish.
There was money everywhere.
Oil exporters in the Arab states were depositing their windfall "petrodollars" into big U.S. banks, who were in turn lending the money out as fast as they could.
By far, the largest recipients of the flood of money looking to be lent out were Latin American and South American countries. Thus, the new tens of billions of dollars banks had to lend were showered on sovereign states with glaring credit quality blemishes.
In the meantime, banks were lending hand over fist to the energy patch. Small banks were getting into the oil lending game, too - sometimes in spectacular ways.
By 1982, tiny Penn Square Bank, located in the Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City, Okla., had made over $1 billion dollars of energy loans and resold them to money-center bank Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago.
The loans went bad, quickly.
What You Absolutely Need to Know About Money (Part 7)
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...
FOMC Meeting Message: Don't Blame Us for Sluggish Economy
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting concluded today (Wednesday) with one clear message to Washington: Thanks for the lousy economy.
Central bank members cited only "moderate" expansion in economic activity and a slow improvement in the stubbornly high unemployment level.
Acknowledging the economy is moving at an unhurried pace, the FOMC members pointed an accusing finger at Capitol Hill.
"Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth," the statement read. That remark was in direct reference to a deadlocked Congress, sequestration and its far-reaching impact.
A spate of fresh economic reports back that sentiment: