Why Interest Rates Are Rising

FED Agressively Raising Rates

By Ellen Brown

The Fed is aggressively raising interest rates, although inflation is contained, private debt is already at 150% of GDP, and rising variable rates could push borrowers into insolvency. So what is driving the Fed’s push to “tighten”?

Ellen Brown

On March 31st the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate for the sixth time in 3 years and signaled its intention to raise rates twice more in 2018, aiming for a fed funds target of 3.5% by 2020. LIBOR (the London Interbank Offered Rate) has risen even faster than the fed funds rate, up to 2.3% from just 0.3% 2-1/2 years ago. LIBOR is set in London by private agreement of the biggest banks, and the interest on $3.5 trillion globally is linked to it, including $1.2 trillion in consumer mortgages.

Alarmed commentators warn that global debt levels have reached $233 trillion, more than three times global GDP; and that much of that debt is at variable rates pegged either to the Fed’s interbank lending rate or to LIBOR. Raising rates further could push governments, businesses and homeowners over the edge. In its Global Financial Stability report in April 2017, the International Monetary Fund warned that projected interest rises could throw 22% of US corporations into default.

Then there is the US federal debt, which has more than doubled since the 2008 financial crisis, shooting up from $9.4 trillion in mid-2008 to over $21 trillion in April 2018. Adding to that debt burden, the Fed has announced that it will be dumping its government bonds acquired through quantitative easing at the rate of $600 billion annually. It will sell $2.7 trillion in federal securities at the rate of $50 billion monthly beginning in October. Along with a government budget deficit of $1.2 trillion, that’s nearly $2 trillion in new government debt that will need financing annually.

If the Fed follows through with its plans, projections are that by 2027, US taxpayers will owe $1 trillion annually just in interest on the federal debt. That is enough to fund President Trump’s original trillion dollar infrastructure plan every year. And it is a direct transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy investors holding most of the bonds. Where will this money come from? Even crippling taxes, wholesale privatization of public assets, and elimination of social services will not cover the bill.

With so much at stake, why is the Fed increasing interest rates and adding to government debt levels? Its proffered justifications don’t pass the smell test.

“Faith-Based” Monetary Policy

In setting interest rates, the Fed relies on a policy tool called the “Phillips curve,” which allegedly shows that as the economy nears full employment, prices rise. The presumption is that workers with good job prospects will demand higher wages, driving prices up. But the Phillips curve has proven virtually useless in predicting inflation, according to the Fed’s own data. Former Fed Chairman Janet Yellen has admitted that the data fails to support the thesis, and so has Fed Governor Lael Brainard. Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari calls the continued reliance on the Phillips curve “faith-based” monetary policy. But the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which sets monetary policy, is undeterred.

“Full employment” is considered to be 4.7% unemployment. When unemployment drops below that, alarm bells sound and the Fed marches into action. The official unemployment figure ignores the great mass of discouraged unemployed who are no longer looking for work, and it includes people working part-time or well below capacity. But the Fed follows models and numbers, and as of April 2018, the official unemployment rate had dropped to 4.3%. Based on its Phillips curve projections, the FOMC is therefore taking steps to aggressively tighten the money supply.

The notion that shrinking the money supply will prevent inflation is based on another controversial model, the monetarist dictum that “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon”: inflation is always caused by “too much money chasing too few goods.” That can happen, and it is called “demand-pull” inflation. But much more common historically is “cost-push” inflation: prices go up because producers’ costs go up. And a major producer cost is the cost of borrowing money. Merchants and manufacturers must borrow in order to pay wages before their products are sold, to build factories, buy equipment and expand. Rather than lowering price inflation, the predictable result of increased interest rates will be to drive consumer prices up, slowing markets and increasing unemployment – another Great Recession. Increasing interest rates is supposed to cool an “overheated” economy by slowing loan growth, but lending is not growing today. Economist Steve Keen has shown that at about 150% private debt to GDP, countries and their populations do not take on more debt. Rather, they pay down their debts, contracting the money supply; and that is where we are now.

The Fed’s reliance on the Phillips curve does not withstand scrutiny. But rather than abandoning the model, the Fed cites “transitory factors” to explain away inconsistencies in the data. In a December 2017 article in The Hill, Tate Lacey observed that the Fed has been using this excuse ever since 2012, citing one “transitory factor” after another, from temporary movements in oil prices, to declining import prices and dollar strength, to falling energy prices, to changes in wireless plans and prescription drugs. The excuse is wearing thin.

The Fed also claims that the effects of its monetary policies lag behind the reported data, making the current rate hikes necessary to prevent problems in the future. But as Lacey observes, GDP is not a lagging indicator, and it shows that the Fed’s policy is failing. Over the last two years, leading up to and continuing through the Fed’s tightening cycle, nominal GDP growth averaged just over 3%; while in the two prior years, nominal GDP grew at more than 4%. Thus “the most reliable indicator of the stance of monetary policy, nominal GDP, is already showing the contractionary impact of the Fed’s policy decisions,” says Lacey, “signaling that its plan will result in further monetary tightening, or worse, even recession.”

Follow the Money

If the Phillips curve, the inflation rate and loan growth don’t explain the push for higher interest rates, what does? The answer was suggested in an April 12th Bloomberg article by Yalman Onaran, titled “Surging LIBOR, Once a Red Flag, Is Now a Cash Machine for Banks.”  He wrote:

The largest U.S. lenders could each make at least $1 billion in additional pretax profit in 2018 from a jump in the London interbank offered rate for dollars, based on data disclosed by the companies. That’s because customers who take out loans are forced to pay more as Libor rises while the banks’ own cost of credit has mostly held steady.
During the 2008 crisis, high LIBOR rates meant capital markets were frozen, since the banks’ borrowing rates were too high for them to turn a profit. But US banks are not dependent on the short-term overseas markets the way they were a decade ago. They are funding much of their operations through deposits, and the average rate paid by the largest US banks on their deposits climbed only about 0.1% last year, despite a 0.75% rise in the fed funds rate. Most banks don’t reveal how much of their lending is at variable rates or is indexed to LIBOR, but Oneran comments:

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank, said in its 2017 annual report that $122 billion of wholesale loans were at variable rates. Assuming those were all indexed to Libor, the 1.19 percentage-point increase in the rate in the past year would mean $1.45 billion in additional income.

Raising the fed funds rate can be the same sort of cash cow for US banks. According to a December 2016 Wall Street Journal article titled “Banks’ Interest-Rate Dreams Coming True”:

While struggling with ultralow interest rates, major banks have also been publishing regular updates on how well they would do if interest rates suddenly surged upward. . . . Bank of America . . . says a 1-percentage-point rise in short-term rates would add $3.29 billion. . . . [A] back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests an incremental $2.9 billion of extra pretax income in 2017, or 11.5% of the bank’s expected 2016 pretax profit . . . .
As observed in an April 12 article on Seeking Alpha:

About half of mortgages are . . . adjusting rate mortgages [ARMs] with trigger points that allow for automatic rate increases, often at much more than the official rate rise. . . .

One can see why the financial sector is keen for rate rises as they have mined the economy with exploding rate loans and need the consumer to get caught in the minefield.

Even a modest rise in interest rates will send large flows of money to the banking sector. This will be cost-push inflationary as finance is a part of almost everything we do, and the cost of business and living will rise because of it for no gain.
Cost-push inflation will drive up the Consumer Price Index, ostensibly justifying further increases in the interest rate, in a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the FOMC will say, “We tried – we just couldn’t keep up with the CPI.”

A Closer Look at the FOMC

The FOMC is composed of the Federal Reserve’s seven-member Board of Governors, the president of the New York Fed, and four presidents from the other 11 Federal Reserve Banks on a rotating basis. All 12 Federal Reserve Banks are corporations, the stock of which is 100% owned by the banks in their districts; and New York is the district of Wall Street. The Board of Governors currently has four vacancies, leaving the member banks in majority control of the FOMC. Wall Street calls the shots; and Wall Street stands to make a bundle off rising interest rates.

The Federal Reserve calls itself “independent,” but it is independent only of government. It marches to the drums of the banks that are its private owners. To prevent another Great Recession or Great Depression, Congress needs to amend the Federal Reserve Act, nationalize the Fed, and turn it into a public utility, one that is responsive to the needs of the public and the economy.

Ellen Brown’s latest
Book

Goldman Bankers Flood Trump Administration

Heavy Bankers Influence on Both Parties Now Visible

The Hidden Hand of Bankers Rule both the U.S. and the E.U.

President Donald Trump plans on adding another Goldman Sachs veteran to his administration, saying Tuesday that he will nominate James Donavan, the acting managing director of Goldman, as his deputy treasury secretary.

Donavan would become the third major Goldman veteran to join the administration straight out of Wall Street. Former Goldman Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn, who is now the director of the White House National Economic Council, and Dina Powell, who is now the White House’s senior counselor for economic initiatives, were on Goldman payroll when they accepted rolls in the Trump White House. Other Goldman alums include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon.

Click Here to read the rest of the article from Salon.com

A Tale of Two Countries on a Business Card

Since 1955 The U.S. Dollar Has Dropped About 66% Against the Japanese Yen – Yet U.S. Politicians Claim No Inflation

IMG_2102

This card was given out to American Tourists in 1955.  The reverse side of the card has the official yen – dollar exchange rate.

IMG_2098

Notice 400 yen is about $1.11.  Today, the exchange rate to get $1.11 would be only 133 yen!  Don’t believe Washington’s hype about “The Strong Dollar.”  The U.S. is the worst debtor nation in history, printing fiat money to prop up the insolvent Banks.

Report Ukrainian Gold Transferred to U.S.

Secret Transfer of Ukrainian Gold Reserves  Is First Step to International Bankers Control of Ukraine

The gold reserves of the Ukraine were secretly transferred to the United States, according to information from GATA, the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee.  Citing sources in the Ukraine, it is apparent that the IMF has organized the looting of the gold reserves for “safe-keeping”, just in case the Russians invade.  The European Troika has worked with western banks to loot the gold reserves of other countries, the last one being the seizing of the Cyprus gold reserves during the bankster caused collapse of the Cypriot economy and the looting of the bank deposits held by churches, businesses, pensioners, and other ordinary folk.

The report from Ukrainian news sources reads as follows:

From Iskra News, Zaporozhye, Ukraine

Friday, March 7, 2014

http://iskra-news.info/news/segodnja_nochju_iz_borispolja_v_ssha_strarto…

 At 2 a.m. this morning an unmarked transport plane was on the runway at Borispol Airport. According to airport staff, before the plane came to the airport, four trucks and two Volkswagen minibuses arrived, all the truck license plates missing.

Fifteen people in black uniforms, masks, and body armor stepped out, some armed with machine guns. They loaded the plane with more than 40 heavy boxes.

After that a mysterious men arrived and entered the plane.

All loading was done in a hurry.

The plane took off on an emergency basis.

Those who saw this mysterious special operation immediately notified the airport officials, who told the callers not to meddle in other people’s affairs.

Later a returned call from a senior official of the former Ministry of Income and Fees reported that tonight, on the orders of one of the new leaders of Ukraine, the United States had taken custody of all the gold reserves in Ukraine.

The bad news for the people of the Ukraine is that their chances of ever seeing this gold again is slim indeed.  Many other countries have asked for their gold back from the U.S Federal Reserve recently, including Germany.  There is a world-wide struggle for gold at the present time, a secret war pitting China against the U.S.- Euro block.  The bankers know full well that their fiat money system could collapse at any time, and are in a furious struggle to stockpile gold for future operations.

Click here to go to GATA.

 

 

Western Looting of Ukraine Has Begun

Western Looting Of Ukraine Has Begun

Paul Craig Roberts

 

ukraine mapIt is now apparent that the “Maiden protests” in Kiev were in actuality a Washington organized coup against the elected democratic government. The purpose of the coup is to put NATO military bases on Ukraine’s border with Russia and to impose an IMF austerity program that serves as cover for Western financial interests to loot the country. The sincere idealistic protesters who took to the streets without being paid were the gullible dupes of the plot to destroy their country.

Politically Ukraine is an untenable aggregation of Ukrainian and Russian territory, because traditional Russian territories were stuck into the borders of the Ukraine Soviet Republic by Lenin and Khrushchev. The Crimea, stuck into Ukraine by Khrushchev, has already departed and rejoined Russia. Unless some autonomy is granted to them, Russian areas in eastern and southern Ukraine might also depart and return to Russia. If the animosity displayed toward the Russian speaking population by the stooge government in Kiev continues, more defections to Russia are likely.

The Washington-imposed coup faces other possible difficulties from what seems to be a growing conflict between the well-organized Right Sector and the Washington-imposed stooges. If armed conflict between these two groups were to occur, Washington might conclude that it needs to send help to its stooges. The appearance of US/NATO troops in Ukraine would create pressure on Putin to occupy the remaining Russian speaking parts of Ukraine.

international_monetary_fund_imfBefore the political and geographical issues are settled, the Western looting of Ukraine has already begun. The Western media, doesn’t tell any more truth about IMF “rescue packages” than it does about anything else. The media reports, and many Ukrainians believe, that the IMF is going to rescue Ukraine financially by giving the country billions of dollars.

Ukraine will never see one dollar of the IMF money. What the IMF is going to do is to substitute Ukrainian indebtedness to the IMF for Ukrainian indebtedness to Western banks. The IMF will hand over the money to the Western banks, and the Western banks will reduce Ukraine’s indebtedness by the amount of IMF money. Instead of being indebted to the banks, Ukraine will now be indebted to the IMF.

Now the looting can begin. The IMF loan brings new conditions and imposes austerity on the Ukrainian people so that the Ukraine government can gather up the money with which to repay the IMF. The IMF conditions that will be imposed on the struggling Ukraine population will consist of severe reductions in old-age pensions, in government services, in government employment, and in subsidies for basic consumer purchases such as natural gas. Already low living standards will plummet. In addition, Ukrainian public assets and Ukrainian owned private industries will have to be sold off to Western purchasers.

ukraine currencyAdditionally, Ukraine will have to float its currency. In a futile effort to protect its currency’s value from being driven very low (and consequently import prices very high) by speculators ganging up on the currency and short-selling it, Ukraine will borrow more money with which to support its currency in the foreign exchange market. Of course, the currency speculators will end up with the borrowed money, leaving Ukraine much deeper in debt than currently.

The corruption involved is legendary, so the direct result of the gullible Maiden protesters will be lower Ukrainian living standards, more corruption, loss of sovereignty over the country’s economic policy, and the transfer of Ukrainian public and private property to Western interests.

If Ukraine also falls into NATO’s clutches, Ukraine will also find itself in a military alliance against Russia and find itself targeted by Russian missiles. This will be a tragedy for Ukraine and Russia as Ukrainians have relatives in Russia and Russians have relatives in Ukraine. The two countries have essentially been one for 200 years. To have them torn apart by Western looting and Washington’s drive for world hegemony is a terrible shame and a great crime.

The gullible dupes who participated in the orchestrated Maiden protests will rue it for the rest of their lives.

When the protests began, I described what the consequences would be and said that I would explain the looting process. It is not necessary for me to do so. Professor Michel Chossudovsky has explained the IMF looting process along with much history here:

Click Here 

One final word. Despite unequivocal evidence of one country after another being looted by the West, governments of indebted countries continue to sign up for IMF programs. Why do governments of countries continue to agree to the foreign looting of their populations? The only answer is that they are paid. The corruption that is descending upon Ukraine will make the former regime look honest.

Click here to go to Paul Craig Roberts website.

 

 

Fraud Ridden Banks Not California’s Only Option

Fraud “Epic In Scale”…

Ellen Brown

Just in from www.GlobalResearch.com

Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown

“Epic in scale, unprecedented in world history.” That is how William K. Black, professor of law and economics and former bank fraud investigator, describes the frauds in which JPMorgan Chase (JPM) has now been implicated. They involve more than a dozen felonies, including bid-rigging on municipal bond debt; colluding to rig interest rates on hundreds of trillions of dollars in mortgages, derivatives and other contracts; exposing investors to excessive risk; failing to disclose known risks, including those in the Bernie Madoff scandal; and engaging in multiple forms of mortgage fraud.

So why, asks Chicago Alderwoman Leslie Hairston, are we still doing business with them? She plans to introduce a city council ordinance deleting JPM from the city’s list of designated municipal depositories. As quoted in the January 14th Chicago Sun-Times:

The bank has violated the city code by making admissions of dishonesty and deceit in the way they dealt with their investors in the mortgage securities and Bernie Madoff Ponzi scandals. . . . We use this code against city contractors and all the small companies, why wouldn’t we use this against one of the largest banks in the world?

A similar move has been recommended for the City of Los Angeles by L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo. But in a January 19th editorial titled “There’s No Profit in L A. Bashing JPMorgan Chase,” the L.A. Times editorial board warned against pulling the city’s money out of JPM and other mega-banks – even though the city attorney is suing them for allegedly causing an epidemic of foreclosures in minority neighborhoods.

“L.A. relies on these banks,” says The Times, “for long-term financing to build bridges and restore lakes, and for short-term financing to pay the bills.” The editorial noted that a similar proposal brought in the fall of 2011 by then-Councilman Richard Alarcon, backed by Occupy L.A., was abandoned because it would have resulted in termination fees and higher interest payments by the city.

It seems we must bow to our oppressors because we have no viable alternative – or do we? What if there is an alternative that would not only save the city money but would be a safer place to deposit its funds than in Wall Street banks?

The Tiny State That Broke Free

There is a place where they don’t bow. Where they don’t park their assets on Wall Street and play the mega-bank game, and haven’t for almost 100 years. Where they escaped the 2008 banking crisis and have no government debt, the lowest foreclosure rate in the country, the lowest default rate on credit card debt, and the lowest unemployment rate. They also have the only publicly-owned bank.

The place is North Dakota, and their state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND) is a model for Los Angeles and other cities, counties, and states.

Like the BND, a public bank of the City of Los Angeles would not be a commercial bank and would not compete with commercial banks. In fact, it would partner with them – using its tax revenue deposits to create credit for lending programs through the magical everyday banking practice of leveraging capital.

The BND is a major money-maker for North Dakota, returning about $30 million annually in dividends to the treasury – not bad for a state with a population that is less than one-fifth that of the City of Los Angeles. Every year since the 2008 banking crisis, the BND has reported a return on investment of 17-26%.

Like the BND, a Bank of the City of Los Angeles would provide credit for city projects – to build bridges, restore lakes, and pay bills – and this credit would essentially be interest-free, since the city would own the bank and get the interest back. Eliminating interest has been shown to reduce the cost of public projects by 35% or more.

Awesome Possibilities for Los Angeles

Consider what that could mean for Los Angeles. According to the current fiscal budget, the LAX Modernization project is budgeted at $4.11 billion. That’s the sticker price. But what will it cost when you add interest on revenue bonds and other funding sources? The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge earthquake retrofit boondoggle was slated to cost about $6 billion. Interest and bank fees added another $6 billion. Funding through a public bank could have saved taxpayers $6 billion, or 50%.

If Los Angeles owned its own bank, it could also avoid costly “rainy day funds,” which are held by various agencies as surplus taxes. If the city had a low-cost credit line with its own bank, these funds could be released into the general fund, generating massive amounts of new revenue for the city.

The potential for the City and County of Los Angeles can be seen by examining their respective Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs). According to the latest CAFRs (2012), the City of Los Angeles has “cash, pooled and other investments” of $11 billion beyond what is in its pension fund (page 85), and the County of Los Angeles has $22 billion (page 66). To put these sums in perspective, the austerity crisis declared by the State of California in 2012 was the result of a declared state budget deficit of only $16 billion.

The L.A. CAFR funds are currently drawing only minimal interest. With some modest changes in regulations, they could be returned to the general fund for use in the city’s budget, or deposited or invested in the city’s own bank, to be leveraged into credit for local purposes.

Minimizing Risk

Beyond being a money-maker, a city-owned bank can minimize the risks of interest rate manipulation, excessive fees, and dishonest dealings.

Another risk that must now be added to the list is that of confiscation in the event of a “bail in.” Public funds are secured with collateral, but they take a back seat in bankruptcy to the “super priority” of Wall Street’s own derivative claims. A major derivatives fiasco of the sort seen in 2008 could wipe out even a mega-bank’s available collateral, leaving the city with empty coffers.

The city itself could be propelled into bankruptcy by speculative derivatives dealings with Wall Street banks. The dire results can be seen in Detroit, where the emergency manager, operating on behalf of the city’s creditors, put it into bankruptcy to force payment on its debts. First in line were UBS and Bank of America, claiming speculative winnings on their interest-rate swaps, which the emergency manager paid immediately before filing for bankruptcy. Critics say the swaps were improperly entered into and were what propelled the city into bankruptcy. Their propriety is now being investigated by the bankruptcy judge.

Not Too Big to Abandon

Mega-banks might be too big to fail. According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, they might even be too big to prosecute. But they are not too big to abandon as depositories for government funds.

There may indeed be no profit in bashing JPMorgan Chase, but there would be profit in pulling deposits out and putting them in Los Angeles’ own public bank. Other major cities currently exploring that possibility include San Franciscoand Philadelphia.

If North Dakota can bypass Wall Street with its own bank and declare its financial independence, so can the City of Los Angeles. And so can the County. And so can the State of California.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, chairman of the Public Banking Institute, and author of 12 books including The Public Bank Solution. She is currently running for California state treasurer on the Green Party ticket.

– See more at: http://www.globalresearch.ca/enough-is-enough-fraud-ridden-banks-are-not-californias-only-option/5366715#sthash.jLqlWRYb.dpuf

Wreak Havoc, Rob a Bank, Get a Bonus

Class Warfare Unmasked

by Thomas Magstadt

From www.NationOfChange.org

Jamie Dimon

Jamie Dimon

Breaking news that stock markets around the world are in free-fall mode competing with a story about JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon being awarded a heart-stopping, headline-grabbing, tub-thumping pay increase for 2013. What does it mean?

Supposedly, Dimon was asking for his 2013 compensation to be roughly equal to his 2012 pay. But the bank’s board of directors awarded Dimon $20 million for 2013—that’s a tidy $8.5 million raise! Never mind that “JPMorgan Chase recently reached yet another settlement with the U.S. government—a $13 billion deal with the Department of Justice for peddling deceptive mortgages.” Never mind that the bank reported a $400 million loss in the 3rd quarter thanks to a $7.2 billion legal tab. Never mind that this fine, upstanding financial institution is holding $23 billion in reserves for potential litigation. And never mind that we’re talking about a too-big-to-fail bank whose top managers “recklessly gambled with our economy.”

JP Morgan is still flying high and Jamie Dimon got a 74 percent raise last week.

Click here to read the rest of the article.