Why a seemingly run-of-the-mill announcement yesterday by Fed chairman Powell might signal a major turning point for the gold market. . . and perhaps ALL markets.
At the end of Fed chairman Jerome Powell’s opening statement for his press conference yesterday he dropped a major surprise on the markets that immediately sent the dollar and stocks tumbling and gold, silver and bonds vaulting higher. All the markets mentioned experienced sudden sharp reversals at the time of the “surprise.” Those trends have carried over to today’s market action.
To understand what caused such a strong reaction in the markets you have to go all the way back to 2009, the credit crisis and the launch of the quantitative easing program. That bail out of the commercial banks pushed more than $4 trillion of printing press money into the U.S. and global economy through Federal Reserve purchases of U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. Those purchases left the commercial banks with a boatload of cash and the Federal Reserve with its largest balance sheet procurement in history. At the time, the standard analysis had been that the newly placed cash would migrate to the economy in the forms of commercial and consumer loans, push-up the money supply dramatically and launch a virulent inflation.
It never happened and here’s why:
Instead of leaving those reserves at the commercial banks, the Fed encouraged the commercial banks to redeposit that bailout capital at the central bank as what it called “excess reserves.” Up until Mr. Powell’s low-key reference to excess reserves at yesterday’s news conference, few people had ever heard of this little-known Federal Reserve balance sheet item, yet it consists of almost $1.9 trillion at present and peaked in 2014 at almost $2.7 trillion, and a large percentage of the original bail out. The Fed incentivized commercial banks to maintain those deposits by paying a rate of interest slightly higher than the Federal Funds rate, an advantage it kept in intact from 2009 until yesterday. To make a long and rather complicated story short, the “excess reserves” program in effect sterilized the bailout and kept it from igniting inflation.
All of that though may have changed with Mr. Powell’s low-key announcement yesterday, that the Federal Reserve would move the excess reserve deposit rate at a par with the fed funds rate – a policy that removes the long-standing rate advantage on excess reserves and, in effect, formally signals a deliberate desterilization process. That is why the Fed chairman’s seemingly innocuous statement yesterday caused such an immediate stir. What he signaled is that the Federal Reserve is now interested in incentivizing the banks to take that capital back onto their own balance sheets as reserves so that they can be leveraged and loaned into the economy….