From a small northwestern observatory…

Finance and economics generally focused on real estate

Posts Tagged ‘money supply

Housing Finance — Take 2

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Again, from the Wall Street Journal, we find reasons for concern. The “Ahead of the Tape” column in today’s Journal, we find an excellent — but troubling — article by Kelly Evans titled “Economy Needs a Borrower of Last Resort.” It really follows my theme from yesterday, and I couldn’t agree more.

Graph courtesy The Wall Street Journal

The first line of the article says it all: “A lack of funds isn’t hampering the U.S. Economy right now. It is a lack of demand for them.” The FED has been pumping billions into the money supply by buying bonds from banks. In a healthy economy, this should drive up the money supply by a multiple of the face amount bought. Why? An old equation from Econ 101 called the “Velocity of Money.” When I was teaching, I explained (or tried to, for the C students) that when the FED injects money into banks, the banks loan it out. The borrowers in turn buy stuff and the money goes back into the banks, minus a little. That happens several times over. Thus, a dollar of money “injection” by the FED should usually result in at least $2 of net M2 money creation.

Imagine a dollar (or a hundred thousand dollars) injected into the system which is loaned to a family buying a new home. They pay the builder, who deposits the money in the bank (actually, paying off the construction loan) and then that money can be loaned back into the system. Some of it bleeds off into taxes, exports, and such, with each iteration of the deposit-and-loan cycle, but still, the money cycles thru the system. Since each subsequent deposit and loan doesn’t happen instantly, there is a little bit of a lag. Nonetheless, over a short period of time, the system should work. The math behind this is called the “Cambridge Velocity Equation” and it’s been known to economists for hundreds of years.

So, since November, the FED has purchased $684 Billion in bonds, which SHOULD have resulted in trillions of dollars in new money creation. Instead, M2 (the abbreviation for the money supply, defined as all of the cash, bank deposits, and money market funds in the system) has only increased by $326 Billion, suggesting that the velocity of money is about 0.5. Note that it SHOULD be 2 or 3 or more in a vibrant economy. This means that for every dollar injected into the system by the FED, half of it has dissipated.

As the article points out, this is why the recovery has remained so anemic. I would posit that a big problem is in the home loan business, which is far weaker than merely “anemic” — it’s on life support with the undertaker waiting in the lobby.

Kelly Evans posits that the market needs a lender of last resort, which is exactly what I was saying yesterday. Unless and until the system starts turning into the skid, by fixing the totally busted mortgage market, a double-dip recession seems inevitable.

Written by johnkilpatrick

June 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Conerly Consulting

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Dr. Bill Conerly of Portland, Oregon, produces a wonderful little economic report called the Businenomics Newsletter. You can check it out here. While it is heavily Pacific Northwest focused, he has some great insights into the “big picture” of the U.S. economy as a whole. I highly recommend his research, and (as long as I’m in the promotion game), he’s a great public speaker.

He discusses two key elements of the “end of the recession” right up front — the current consensus forecasts of strong GDP growth for the next two years and the current “bounce-back” in consumer spending (which fell off significantly from mid-08 to mid-09). Unfortunately, capital goods orders are only sluggishly recovering, and state-and-local budget gaps continue to be a drag on the economy.

As for construction, the decline is over, but the bounce-back is sluggish. Residential construction fell from an annual rate of about $550 Billion in the 2007 range to about $250B in 2009, and continues to flat-line there. Private non-residential peaked at about $400B in 2008/09, and has since declined to about $250B (where it’s been hovering for since early 2010). Public non-residential has been on a bit of an up-swing all through the recession, but is still barely above 2007 levels (about $300B). In short, these three sectors taken together have more-or-less flat-lined for the past year and a half or so, and appear to be staying there for the time being.

Anyone who reads the paper or watches the news on TV knows we’re in the midst of a raw materials crisis, with aggregate materials prices (the “crude materials index) up about 25% from its recent mid-2009 low. However, the price index is still well-below early 2008. Conerly suggests that the rise is “hard on some, but will not trigger general inflation.”

The money supply (M-2) continues to grow, and QE2 has apparently not had an inflationary impact, at least from reading the charts. Indeed, prior to QE2, the money supply chart looked like it was ready to flat-line. In total, as Conerly notes, the stock market appears to be happy that the economy is growing again.

Written by johnkilpatrick

March 10, 2011 at 11:43 am

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