Belgium is known for its surprises. For example, it got by amazingly well for a couple of years without a national government, to the chagrin of a lot of people. Now that tiny country with a tiny economy is suddenly piling up a mountain of US Treasuries.
For a while, rumor had it that banks weren’t lending, and that this was the reason the recovery has been so crummy. There was no demand for loans, and banks were too tight with their lending standards. Or so the story went.
The tiny country of Belgium with a GDP of $484 billion, a country that became famous to the chagrin of some people because it did just fine for a couple of years without a national government – well, it’s growing an enormous mountain of US Treasuries.
The Fed prints $4 trillion and the national debt jumps $9 trillion in six years. We’re now in month 57 of the expansion, beyond the average 53 months – already on borrowed time. Now comes Professor Krugman proposing to “do something.”
How long before the dollar surrenders its status as world reserve currency and number-one payment currency to the Chinese yuan and to that other currency everyone loathes?
Rising household debt would be a hopeful sign that consumers are again living beyond their means, finally spending money they don’t have in a heroic effort to stimulate Wall Street, corporate earnings, and the Fed’s self-esteem. So we jubilate. We’ve waited for it too long.
Since the introduction of QE 3, honest-looking Fed chairman Bernanke told the Wall-Street media circus after each FOMC meeting that the money-printing binge in the coming month would expand the Fed’s balance sheet by $85 billion. A fact cited worldwide. And a big lie.
Central banks rule! We’ve seen it in 2013. They’ve accomplished the impossible: separating stock markets from the economies they’re based on. But in 2014, the US and China are trying to unwind these crazy policies – without taking down the entire global economy.
Treasuries have been skidding, and the 10-year yield hit the psycho-sound barrier of 3%. What happened last time this phenomenon occurred? Well, yields bounced off and fell – because the mayhem they’d triggered gave the Fed conniptions and caused it to back off.
Municipal bond investors, a conservative bunch eager to avoid rollercoasters and cliffhangers, are getting frazzled. Bankruptcies and the Fed’s taper cacophony are a toxic mix. So they’re bailing out of muni bond funds at record rate. Losses are mounting. And so are the fears.