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The Velocity of Money

In The Velocity of Money published by FED 1969 it is concluded that the velocity of money naturally not is constant over time, as assumed in older version of the quantitative theory of money...

Further "a major part of the postwar rise in velocity reflects technological changes in our payments mechanism."

We are closing in on the technological possibilities of velocity of money, some milliseconds could be gained by going neutrino (the discussion is still going on on Neutrino Collectors :-)

It looks like we still have a lot of deleverage ahead of us, in particular in Europe. To compensate for this governments will need to keep printing money if they want to keep todays monetary system intact. And they should think more about the distribution of their bail out packages.

Next time the velocity of money shoots up, could take years from now, will the central banks be able to control it, are they even able to predict it? The velocity of money not related to technological development is very hard to predict, and big swings in the velocity of money can have big impacts.

People seem to fear more the last milliseconds potential technological achievement in money and information transfers affect on trading rather than how mad crowd behaviour can change the velocity of money. Hyper velocity of money is one of many possible scenarios for the long term future. Do central banks also trust their macro models way too much? just like many on Wall Street trusted their VaR, Sharp, BSM, Gaussian copula models too much. What if people loose trust in central banks or some major currencies, then we could at some point get Hyper-Velocity of money triggered by mad crowds. But why worry? this is just a tail event scenario, not likely, but possible!

Enjoy your summer!

Bubble Face

Is Facebook a bubble or not?

Face-bubbles are a little like tulip-bubbles, are they not? If Facebook even is a bubble, then clearly it is one of these bubbles that can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent (if trying to short it, good timing helps ;).

We have to have in mind there has been a lot of QE (money printing) going on around the world. When the "real" money supply is increasing (even if the broad money supply can be falling short term) the money is in no way distributed evenly, some people get the new money first, lots of it. With artificial low interest rates why not spend some of it on tulip-bubbles or face-bubbles?

A face has highest face value in young age ?

I expect more helicopter money!

Under todays monetary system there is basically only one realistic choice, increase the money supply one way or the other. Todays monetary system (without a dramatic reform) can only survive if the money supply keep increasing over time.

“Danger Lies not in Gold but in Loans” Albert Einstein, February 1948, Atomic Scientist, Vol 4. No 2.

And in the same issue of Atomic Scientist, Albert wrote:

"It is, indeed, difficult to imagine how these loans will ever be repaid. For all practical purposes, therefore these loans must be considered gifts which may be used as weapons in the arena of power politics..... We all know that power politics, sooner or later, necessarily leads to war......"

Loans has in the ongoing loan-crisis already lead friendly neighbor countries to use anti-terror laws against each other.

Realistic and relativistic speaking, todays big loans can only be paid off by even bigger loans (or defaulting)! Everything is not relative, but yes loans under a fractional fiat money system are relative. Big loans in any other currency than your own is at least not wise!

The Seasons of Money

What monetary system should we have? Fractional Fiat, gold standard, sea shells, or barter ?

This is like asking should we have summer, winter, fall or spring? Of course we will have them all! The only ever lasting money system is seasonal.

In the end of a season you prepare for the next season. And remember not two summers are alike, and very seldom there are also Fimbulvetr.

Not only gold bugs talk about gold these days

That the president of the World Bank on the front page of CNN now talks about retuning to a modern type of gold standard means you no longer need to be a gold bug to talk about gold I guess.

Fractional Fiat is doomed to fail in the long run. The question is if the current monetary system will see dramatic changes before the system itself get so fragile that it is forced to a dramatic change (could be ugly, could be many years down the road, nobody knowns for sure).

The main problem is as I have pointed out long time ago fractional money, not Fiat itself. Fiat + fractional is fractional money on steroids. Today’s monetary system has very little to do with free markets. One of the corner stones in modern economic theory is that handful of people not are smarter than the market. But when it comes to the fundament of the economic system: money, then the price of money is only to a small degree set by the market. The price of money is to a large degree set by a handful of elected (or non elected) people. I do not doubt that central bank ministers try to do as well as they can under todays monetary system, and under their mandate (best for whom can naturally be discussed). The question is about the monetary system itself.

When everyone wanted to borrow money to buy a second, or third house the price of money did not go up as it would have done if the market controlled the price of money (but under todays monetary system this could in no way work). Thanks to fractional fiat financial institutions together with the people that wanted more money could simply create more money (debt) when they needed more money. If instead the market had controlled the price of money (would have needed a completely different monetary system) then the price of money would have skyrocket when “everyone” wanted to borrow money and the size of the bubble would not have got that large in the first place.

When the gigantic credit bubble busted and the price of money should have sky rocked even more we had the lenders of last resort, the central banks. A handful of people that know better than the whole market were keeping the price of money at artificial low levels (and they possibly should do this under todays monetary system). The lenders of last resorts could thanks to fractional fiat bail out anyone they wanted (in their own currency), they could even get a negative GDP growth to show up positive in nominal terms. Every problem is solved by the printing press (or as they like to call it quantitative easing) these days it looks like. The printing press is causing a series of non optimal reallocations of wealth and production capital. Wealth is to a large degree confiscated through artificial low price on money (when the demand is big, and opposite), debasing the money, + tax on the inflation tax from people that have worked hard, spent little and saved up for their retirement, and given to people that just wants to take a lot of risk with others peoples money ( Twelve books could be written about this a lone)!

However it is not just to abolish the central banks. Under today’s monetary system the central banks play an important role, and many of the central bank ministers do a good job under what is their mandate. What we likely need is a completely new monetary system where the role of the central banks is miniscule. But the change in the monetary system must come first. However any big change could be painful, and should be thought carful about before such changes are decided upon.

When the market does not set the price of money to a large degree then there is no free market in the fundament of the system. Today’s world economy has little to do with a market economy. To compensate for the flawed fundament of the system a lots of regulation is put on the top of the system. But this is the wrong way to go. It is like when you have a root channel problem in your teeth, it cannot solve by polishing the teeth, no matter what polish you use for the surface of the teeth the problem in the root of the system will not go away. It is the root of the system that needs a fix. More polish on the top will not do!

I am not sure going back to a "modern" gold standard will be the best way to go. But yes to get rid of the high-powered fractional system is clearly what should be done at some point. At the fundament of the system we need supply and demand to decide the price of money. Todays economy have free markets on the top of the system, while the fundament of the system is far removed from the idea of free markets. However it is not just to abolish the central banks. Under today’s monetary system the central banks play an important role.

What we need is a new type of monetary system. Personally I think this could be I-Money. More on this another time.

Flight to Qualitas

The Greek problem is just another sign of the ongoing flight to qualitas. Some fractional fiat monies naturally have more quality than others, but non of them have any significant primary or secondary qualitas.

Has the dollar ever been worth more than a dollar? Has the pound ever been worth more than a pound?

I expect an ongoing flight to primary qualitas.

Bail Out Pyramid?

Countries and central banks bailed out most of the big financial institutions (except the few one they did not like), and many small banks they let go bankrupt.

Several big corporations got bailed out one way or the other.

And now we see that several countries "need" to be bailed out some way or the other.

Who will bail out the biggest countries? Simply the electronic fiat-money printing press?

Well let’s hope the world economy stabilizes before the house of cards is bailed out with air, air and house of cards are not always a good combination.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst!

Excess Reserves Exceed 1 trillion dollars

Until the financial crisis started there were almost no excess reserves in the banking system. The excess reserves have exploded and now stand at more than a trillion dollars:

www.federalreserve.gov excess reserves

There has been a series of stories about this, how it potentially indicates money not is getting out to the people. That the unemployment now stands at between 10% to 20% possibly indicate that the money not is getting out there. But this could naturally also be related to other factors.

Several people have also claimed the massive excess reserves at some point down the road will cause considerable inflation. The idea is as long as the velocity of money stays low we will not see inflation, we could even see deflation. But when the economy stabilizes and lending activities picks up and the velocity of money picks up then the excess reserves now flowing into the system and working as a money multiplier could cause inflation:

Inflation is looming on America’s horizon

In an interesting report from FED July 2009 it is claimed that the excess reserves neither means the banks not are lending out their money and further that the massive excess reserves are unlikely to cause inflation down the road:

Why Are Banks Holding So Many Excess Reserves?

Thanks to a “new invention” FED claims things are different this time around. The new invention is to pay interest rates on excess reserves. Paying interest rates on excess reserves where introduced by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, and this is the new magic trick among central banks around the world.

FED now supposedly have much better control of when and how much of these excess reserves will go into the economy in form of increased lending.

FED’s report seems to be based on a series of hidden assumptions. They do not seem to take into account that FED has much less control over the long-term interest rates than the short rates. If the long-term interest rates went much higher than short rates and the economy at the same time picks up could it not happen that banks will start to lend out their excess reserves to long-term investments to get higher returns? And what about the equity markets and other markets, if the returns here should be great over an extended period of time would it then not be tempting for banks to increase lending to get considerably higher returns than on their excess reserve accounts?

Possibly I am completely wrong, I am far from an expert on excess reserves in the banking system. However to me there simply seems to be too many unknown factors that potentially could limit FED’s control over the excess reserves and thereby the money supply.

The central bank system also seems have very limited experience with how much extra control they actually gain over money supply and money multiplier by giving interest rates on the excess reserve accounts. FED mentions that The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has used this type of framework since 2006. But what is 4 or 5 years experience?

The record high gold price seems to tell a different story. People are normally moving towards gold when they start loosing their faith in the monetary systems ability to sustain stability in the value of legal tender. The high gold price is probably also a way for parts of the market to say they fear inflation coming down the road. What if FED is wrong in some of their assumptions, what if these massive excess reserves at some point down the road should cause massive turbulence and or inflation? It could naturally take many years before we know the answer to this question.

Last time the excess reserves where ballooning was under the great depression. Excess banking reserves in USA were just above 70 million dollars in 1929. In 1935 they had exploded to 1282 million dollars.

But this time everything is different; the central bankers have finally found the solution, the magic trick of giving interest rates on the excess reserves will be our savior this time around. I hope and wish it is this simple, but I am afraid not!

M1 is way up, M3 is flattish (or slightly down) likely due to the falling velocity of money.

Shadow stats

When the velocity of money at some point picks up it will be interesting to see how well FED can control the total money supply of the economy.

But yes we can clearly get deflation before we get inflation. Well there has already been quite a lot of house price deflation around the world.

Life Blood

Money is the lifeblood of the economy. In the last boom cycle bankers created tons of money through credit expansion, naturally with the help of homebuyers (wanting to make fast money on a second and third home), consumers and fast expanding businesses.

Snakes and banks have a few things in common, they both have a lot of muscles. If you ever had a python snake around your neck you can feel it has a lot of muscles. Banks have the muscles to create money through credit expansion. Central banks have the mucles to create money and to set the official interest rates, manage the currency reserves etc.

When the credit bubble busted the short-term fix was relatively simple. Central bankers and politicians could replace much of the shrinking credit-money (credit contraction) with fresh money from the central bank “electronic printing press”. The money was used to bail out banks and financial institutions that based on horrible risk management (of credit) suddenly were imploding and still keep imploding. Well only the too big to fail got bailed out, the small banks went bankrupt or got swallowed up by super banks that had got billions and billions in fresh bail out money.

Fresh money is also used to buy the countries own debt. This to keep interests down and avoid further panic.

Many snakes can also be poisonous (luckily the python around my neck is not). If the central banks print too much electronic money it could at some point become poisonous for the lifeblood of the economy. The potential poisonous lifeblood of the economy is now congested around the heart of the economy. If the congested lifeblood dose not spread out in the economy it could at some point cause another heart attack with a lot of chaos in the world economy. In a big body (the world economy) it normally takes a lot of time for the lifeblood to spread out. Unemployment is up in most countries and consumer spending is down, the blood is simply congested around the heart of the economy. If the congested potential poisonous lifeblood should reach out in the economy it could down the road cause high inflation and or weakening of certain currencies.

If you fear the lifeblood of the economy could be poisoned you should consider investing in antidotes now. Personally I would think a good antidote diluted in water is reddish in color, it looks like wine, but do not taste like wine (few people have tasted it, but most people have touched it), I say no more….

To understand a snake you have to feel it, touch it, smell it. A true serpent master does not fear snakes. Snakes should fear him!

GDPC - Gross Domestic Production Circus

Central bankers and many financial (macro) analysts put a lot of weight on GDP numbers.

Why?

Think of someone measuring his strength by how much volume he can lift rather than using a standardized scientific weight for measurement. One day your iron dumbbells are replaced by air filled plastic dumbbells with 3 times the volume of the iron dumbbells (but much less scientific weight in kilograms). Based on this a newspaper reporter writes that your strength has exploded. Great!

This is almost like listening to economists claiming the recession must be over in some countries because central banks have pumped loads of fresh FIAT-money into the system and thereby also helped inflate their GDP numbers.

It looks like GDP is back up raising in a few countries hit by the financial crisis. But how do we measure GDP? Yes by money, but if the money supply in reality has been increasing then the real production could be down even if GDP looks like it is up. Today’s popular inflation measures and money supply measures are horrible at keeping track of the long-term relevant money supply. Talking about GDP measures as if it was scientific weight measures also makes it looks like the central bankers and politicians are in control of the situation. They have accurate measurements of the situations and the tools to tune the economic machinery. I wish!

The central bankers have used their magic wand to make it looks like GDP is doing okay. Politicians and central bankers massive bail out of financial institutions is not the same as increased production. GDP growth in times like these could be illusionary. Central bankers have very limited control over the velocity of money, it could fall further, making the central bankers panic further with their electronic printing press. Or the velocity of money could come up to more normal levels. Together with increased “real” money supply this could cause inflation and or panic out of certain currencies. There are many scenarios and GDP is an extremely inaccurate measure to say anything.

If GDP suddenly should shoot up at the same time as unemployment is increasing this could simply mean a combination of increased money supply together with the velocity of money coming somewhat up from lows. When and if the velocity of money comes back to “normal” then we will see the true and relevant money supply. It is for sure way up. This mean that in the long run a series of fractional-FIAT currencies likely must come down in value one way or the other (this could take months or many years). Relative to what? Use your imagination. Before that happens the velocity of money could fall further, causing the central banks to speed up the electronic printing press (causing even bigger problems in the long run). I do not know where the velocity of money is going, I do not know where the GDP is going, but I know central bankers are running their electronic printing press. The measure stick used to measure GDP is quickly changing its length and this is not captured in central banks naïve and lagging inflation measures.

Growth in GDP does not need to reflect increased production in the economy. Changes in GDP can just as well be changes in the length of the measure stick. That is changes in the velocity of money plus changes in “real” money supply. We know the central bankers have been increasing the money supply + we know the velocity of money likely is highly volatile in times like this. The fear and greed volatility is still high. Small changes in GDP measures could be close to meaningless in situations like this.

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