Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Fed should monetize all of Europe to save the banks

Section:

Should the Fed Save Europe from Disaster?

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The Telegraph, London
Sunday, November 27, 2011

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/891878...

The dam is breaking in Europe. Interbank lending has seized up. Much of the financial system is paralysed, setting off a credit crunch just as Euroland slides back into slump.

The Euribor/OIS spread or "fear gauge" is flashing red warning signals. Dollar funding costs in Europe have spiked to Lehman-crisis levels, leaving lenders struggling frantically to cover their $2 trillion (L1.3 trillion) funding gap.

America's money markets are no longer willing to lend to over-leveraged Euroland banks, or only on drastically short maturities below seven days. Exposure to French banks has been slashed by 69 percent since May.

Italy faces a "sudden stop" in funding, forced to pay 6.5 percent on Friday for six-month money, despite the technocrat takeover in Rome.

... Dispatch continues below ...



ADVERTISEMENT

Golden Phoenix Completes Operating Agreement
for Santa Rosa Gold Mine in Panama

Golden Phoenix Minerals Inc. (GPXM) has entered a joint venture operating agreement with Silver Global S.A., a Panamanian corporation, governing the operational and management aspects of their new joint venture company, Golden Phoenix Panama S.A., a Panamanian corporation formed to hold and operate the Santa Rosa gold mine in Canazas, Panama, and explore the mine's adjacent property.

Golden Phoenix will be manager of the joint venture company. Silver Global will handle all social programs, political and community relations, and human resource matters for the joint venture company in Panama. Golden Phoenix and Silver Global also have agreed to work together on all future acquisitions within Panama and to bring such new opportunities to the joint venture company.

Golden Phoenix will be earning in to a 60 percent interest (and potentially an 80 percent interest) in the Santa Rosa mine. Upon signing the joint venture agreement and completing the corresponding acquisition payment, Golden Phoenix will earn an initial 15 percent interest in the joint venture company.

Tom Klein, CEO of Golden Phoenix, says the agreement "creates a solid foundation for the development and planned re-opening of Mina Santa Rosa."

For Golden Phoenix's full statement on the joint venture operating agreement, please visit:

http://goldenphoenix.us/press-release/golden-phoenix-completes-joint-ven...



German Bund yields have risen to 59 basis points above Swedish bonds since Wednesday's failed auction. German debt has been relegated suddenly against Swiss, Nordic, Japanese, and US debt. As the Telegraph reported two weeks ago, Asian central banks and sovereign wealth funds are spurning all EMU bonds because they have lost confidence in a monetary system with no lender of last resort, coherent form of government, or respect for the rule of law.

Even if EU leaders could agree on fiscal union and joint debt issuance -- which they can't -- such long-range changes cannot solve the immediate crisis at hand. The push for treaty changes has become a vast distraction.

Unless Germany agrees to the full mobilization of the European Central Bank very fast, the eurozone will spiral out of control. As The Economist put it, "The risk that the currency disintegrates within weeks is alarmingly high."

Theoretically, EMU can limp on though the Winter until the Italian debt auctions of E33 billion in the last week of January, and E48 billion in the last week of February. The reality is that sovereign contagion to the financial system may well bring matters to a head more swiftly.

If breakup occurs in a disorderly fashion, with Club Med states and Ireland spun into oblivion one by one, the chain reaction will cause an implosion of Europe's E31 trillion banking nexus (S&P estimate), the world's biggest and most leveraged. This in turn risks an almighty global crash -- first-class passengers included.

So the question arises: Should the rest of the world take over management of Europe to prevent or mitigate disaster? Specifically, should the US Federal Reserve assume leadership as a monetary superpower and impose policy on a paralyzed ECB, acting as a global lender of last resort?

In essence, the US would do for EMU what it did in military and strategic terms for the Europe in the 1990s when Washington said enough is enough after squabbling EU leaders had allowed 200,000 people to be slaughtered in the Balkans. The Pentagon settled matters swiftly with "Operation Deliberate Force," raining Tomahawk missiles on the Serb positions. Power met greater power.

I have not made up my mind about the wisdom of a Fed rescue. It is fraught with dangers, and one might argue that resources are better deployed breaking EMU into workable halves with minimal possible damage.

However, debate is already joined -- and wheels are turning in Washington policy basements -- so let me throw this out for readers to chew over.

Nobel economist Myron Scholes first floated the idea over lunch at a Riksbank forum in August. "I wonder whether Bernanke might not say that 'we believe in a harmonized world, that the Europeans are our friends, and we know that the ECB can't print money to buy bonds because the Germans won't let them. And since the ECB will soon run out of money, we will step in and start buying European government bonds for them.' It is something to think about," he said.

This is not as eccentric as it sounds. The Fed's Ben Bernanke touched on the theme in a speech in November 2002 -- "Deflation: making sure it doesn't happen here" -- now viewed as his policy "road map" in extremis.

"The Fed can inject money into the economy in still other ways. For example, the Fed has the authority to buy foreign government debt. Potentially, this class of assets offers huge scope for Fed operations," he said.

Berkeley's Brad DeLong said it is time for Bernanke to act on this as the world lurches straight into 1931 and a Great Depression II. "The Federal Reserve needs to buy up every single European bond owned by every single American financial institution for cash," he said.

The Fed could buy E2 trillion of EMU debt or more, intervening with crushing power. The credible threat of such action by the world's paramount monetary force might alone bring Italian and Spanish yields back down below 5 percent before one bent nickel is even spent.

One presumes that the Fed would purchase both the triple-A core and Club Med in a symmetric blast of monetary stimulus across the board, avoiding the (fiscal) error of targeting semi-solvent states. In sense, the Fed would do quantitative easing for the Europeans, whether they liked it or not.

David Zervos from Jefferies has proposed an extreme variant of this, accusing Germany's fiscal Puritans of reducing Europe's periphery to "indentured servants" and driving the whole region into depression with combined fiscal and monetary contraction.

"We in the US need to snuff out these sado-fiscalists and fast. They are a danger to the world. The US can force monetisation at the ECB. We should back up the forklift and buy Euro-area bonds. Lots of them," he said.

Some of the purchases could be achieved by tapping the Fed's euro account at the ECB, flush with funds as a result of currency swaps provided by Washington to help Europe shore up its banks. Ultimately mass EMU bond purchases would cause a sudden and potentially dangerous spike in the euro against the dollar. There lies the rub. If the ECB failed to loosen monetary policy drastically to offset this, the experiment could go badly wrong.

A pioneering school of "market monetarists" -- perhaps the most creative in the current policy fog -- says the Fed should reflate the world through a different mechanism, preferably with the Bank of Japan and a coalition of the willing.

Their strategy is to target nominal GDP (NGDP) growth in the United States and other aligned powers, restoring it to pre-crisis trend levels. The idea comes from Irving Fisher's "compensated dollar plan" in the 1930s.

The school is not Keynesian. They are inspired by interwar economists Ralph Hawtrey and Sweden's Gustav Cassel, as well as monetarist guru Milton Friedman. "Anybody who has studied the Great Depression should find recent European events surreal. Day-by-day history repeats itself. It is tragic," said Lars Christensen from Danske Bank, author of a book on Friedman.

"It is possible that a dramatic shift toward monetary stimulus could rescue the euro," said Scott Sumner, a professor at Bentley University and the group's eminence grise. Instead, EU authorities are repeating the errors of the slump by obsessing over inflation when (forward-looking) deflation is already the greater threat.

"I used to think people were stupid back in the 1930s. Remember Hawtrey's famous "Crying fire, fire, in Noah's flood"? I used to wonder how people could have failed to see the real problem. I thought that progress in macroeconomic analysis made similar policy errors unlikely today. I couldn't have been more wrong. We're just as stupid," he said.

Needless to say, reflation alone will not make Euroland a workable currency area. Nor will fiscal union, Eurobonds, and debt pooling down the road.

"Even if they do two years of fiscal transfers, and the ECB buys all the bonds, and the problems are swept under the carpet, we are still going to be facing a crisis at the end of it," said Professor Scholes.

None of the "cures" on offer tackle the 30-percent currency misalignment between North and South, the deeper cause of this crisis. What Fed-imposed QE for Euroland can do is make a solution at least possible by stoking inflation deliberately.

This means inflicting a boomlet on the German bloc while allowing the South to take its fiscal punishment without crashing further into self-defeating debt deflation. It forces up prices in the North, compelling the neo-Calvinists to accept their share of the intra-EMU price readjustment.

The Germans will not like this. If inflation causes them rise up in revolt and leave EMU to the Latins, so much the better. That is the best solution of all.

What we know for certain is that Europe's current policy settings must lead ineluctably to ruin and perhaps to fascism. Nothing can be worse.

* * *

Join GATA here:

Vancouver Resource Investment Conference
Sunday-Monday, January 22-23, 2012
Vancouver Convention Centre West
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

http://cambridgehouse.com/conference-details/vancouver-resource-investme...

California Investment Conference
Saturday-Sunday, February 11-12, 2012
Hyatt Grand Champions Resort
Indian Wells, California, USA

http://cambridgehouse.com/conference-details/california-investment-confe...

Support GATA by purchasing gold and silver commemorative coins:

https://www.amsterdamgold.eu/gata/index.asp?BiD=12

Or by purchasing a colorful GATA T-shirt:

http://gata.org/tshirts

Or a colorful poster of GATA's full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal on January 31, 2009:

http://gata.org/node/wallstreetjournal

Or a video disc of GATA's 2005 Gold Rush 21 conference in the Yukon:

http://www.goldrush21.com/

Help keep GATA going

GATA is a civil rights and educational organization based in the United States and tax-exempt under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Its e-mail dispatches are free, and you can subscribe at:

http://www.gata.org

To contribute to GATA, please visit:

http://www.gata.org/node/16



ADVERTISEMENT

For Continuous Wealth Creation, the Hera Research Newsletter

The life cycles of companies that produce natural resources allow investors to allocate assets among companies at different stages of development and to profit from transitions between stages.

Based on natural resource company life cycles, the Hera Research Newsletter maximizes profits through deep, fundamental analysis at each stage of development and by moving gains back to earlier-stage companies in a continuous wealth-creation process.

Hera Research covers a pipeline of high-quality natural resource companies at different stages of development. The companies span discovery and production of gold, silver, and platinum group metals, select base metals, oil and gas, green energy, agriculture, rare earth elements, uranium, and more.

Discover the unique value of the Hera Research Newsletter by visiting:

http://www.heraresearch.com/newsletter.html

Or call Ron Hera at 360-339-8541x101.