Submitted by Alasdair Macleod – FinanceAndEconomics.org
One can understand the Fed’s frustration over the failure of its interest rate policy, and its desire to escape the zero bound.
However, since the FOMC has all but said it will increase rates at its December meeting, events have turned against this course of action. The other major central banks are in easing mode, and the slowdown in China has further undermined both world trade flows and commodity prices. The result has been a strong dollar, which has effectively eliminated any perceived need for higher dollar interest rates. Meanwhile, the US’s non-financial economy remains subdued.
Last August, a similar situation existed, when the FOMC signalled that a rise in the Fed Funds Rate might be announced at its September meeting. Ahead of it, China revalued the dollar by announcing a small devaluation of its own currency, taking the wind out of the Fed’s sails. While the talking heads saw this as a failure of Chinese financial policy, it was nothing of the sort. Given the US was dragging its feet over the yuan’s inclusion in the SDR, it was a salvo in the financial war between the two states, and the Fed found itself in the firing line.
Since then the pressure has been mounting from the IMF for the US to back down over the SDR issue. The result was announced only this week, with the dollar content hardly changing and the yuan being accommodated mostly at the expense of the euro from September next year. However, despite the SDR issue having been dealt with for now, the Fed appears to have very little room for manoeuver before higher interest rates will give rise to a new financial crisis.
The chart below illustrates the problem. It is of the Fed Funds Rate since 1980 and the Fiat Money Quantity, which simply put is the sum of the commercial banks’ reserves at the Fed, plus cash and sight deposits held at the banks.