Firm Hand

What happens in a Democratic-Republic when the most powerful person has an agenda which seems at odds with the legislative body?

We found out today when Janet Yellen, who is not at all orange, testified before the Senate Banking Committee for the first time since … well, really since all Hell broke loose. Financial issues have largely taken a back seat since the circus came to town and the opportunity to return to such a basic issue had the wonderful air or normality to it.

That didn’t stop anyone from trying to bring in the clowns, of course. But real leaders, like Yellen, know better than to take the bait. It was delightfully boring, as all banking should be. But it still had its moments.

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Fed Futzes, Fuses Financial Fracas

Janet Yellen – is there anything she can’t do?

In a speech to the Economic Club of New York the most powerful person in the world, elections be damned, called back the need for continuing “ramp up” in the Fed Funds Rate. The stock market rallied as the happy days of last year returned and everyone had reason to believe that free money was on the horizon.

Funny, they don’t cheer like that for Bernie Sanders.

What is going on? Are we not going to raise rates this year after all? Has Yellen started channeling her inner Greenspan by saying as little as possible in the maximum number of words?

No, this is what we have to expect. It’s really all about China, which is to say all about currency conversion, and the much-hyped “dual mandate” of the Fed that’s really a much more complex triple mandate or more. And we all, sadly, have to stay tuned to find out what it really means.

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Market Funk

Watching the stock market on a daily basis is a good way to go insane. If you doubt this, all you have to do is read the various explanations for the daily gyrations – which rarely make much sense. Nevermind them. Since the start of 2016 the market’s been in a serious funk, which is to say it’s had a major urge to get down.

The official explanation is “China”. Something about China, at least. We’ve never bought that here at Barataria, focusing instead on the positive news that surrounds us every day. No, we’re not joking. There is indeed positive news and the market reflects this – sort of, at least.

Like good funk, the story of the stock market today comes with a backbeat and a solid bass line. It’s all about how the vagaries of international finance flow through the news and the market with a beat that so infectious ev’rbody has to dance.

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Good News! It’s Good News.

Before we can call the economy “good”, we have to be in a situation where good news is taken as unvarnished good news. And that seems to have finally happened.

Janet Yellen outlined in great detail exactly why interest rates not only have to start rising by the end of the year, but why they have to go up to around 2% before the Fed is done. The market responded positively, getting another shot of good news this morning. Has the monkey of cheap money finally been scraped off their backs?

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Fed Raising Rates …. When?

It’s been nearly a year since Janet Yellen, in her first testimony press conference after a Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC)  meeting, told the world just what she was looking for before raising the Fed Funds Rate (and everything that rises along with it). The openness was remarkable for a Fed Chair and a sign of a new era as a woman took control of what is arguably the most power job in the world.

Since that time, we have followed “Yellen’s Dashboard” with periodic updates to just just how we’re doin’. Nearly everyone agrees that interest rates will rise sometime this year, probably around June, as she has told us.  But how does that stack up against her very public criteria? It’s worth checking in with some math to see where we are with rates and what we can expect.

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Yellen’s Dashboard

How will we know when the economy is turning the corner towards real growth? Everyone has their own answer, but Fed Chair Janet Yellen told us last March what she has on  her “dashboard”. As the most powerful person in the financial world, and probably the whole world, her opinion counts more than most. With the arrival of another piece of data on where we stand right now in the second quarter of 2014 (2Q14), it’s time to check in on how we’re all doin’.

What we see is that we’re making some substantial progress, but we still have an awfully long way to go before we can say we’re close to the last time everyone felt remotely flush, which is before the arrival of what Barataria calls a “Managed Depression”  at the end of year 2000.

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Velocity and Inflation

Since 2008, the Federal Reserve has more or less printed over $3.2 Trillion in three rounds of “Quantitative Easing”, now tapering off to zero. Many have speculated that this has to result in inflation for the simple reason that there are more US Dollars out there than ever before. That’s based on the most fundamental principle of any market, supply and demand –more of these things called “Dollars” around and the value has to drop, meaning it takes more of them to make a reasonable exchange with something real.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Inflation remains less than 2% per year as it has since the financial crisis that started in 2007. How on earth can that be?

The answer is that the number of US Dollars in the world is only one part of the equation. The “velocity of money”, or the number of times they turn over in the economy, is equally important. Data since 2007 shows what every freelancer and job seeker knows – it’s a tough world out there, and people are pretty slow to let go of the dough they have.

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