Two Bits of Advice for the Fed

 

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey

Here are two ideas for the Fed, not that they care much about what I think:

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1) Stop holding regular press conferences and holding regular meetings. Only meet when a supermajority of your members are calling for a change in policy. Don’t announce that you are holding a meeting — perhaps do it via private video conference.

Part of the reason for this is that it is useless to listen to commentary about why you did nothing. You may as well have not held a meeting. Another reason is that governors could act more independently if a meeting can’t be called unless a supermajority of voting members calls for it.

Yet another reason is that the frequent and long communication has not eliminated the Kremlinology that exists to interpret the Fed. When changes to the FOMC statement are small, they get over-interpreted — remember the “taper” comment? Far better to say nothing than to repeat yourself with small meaningless variations.

Along with that, you could eliminate issuing statements altogether, and go back to the way things were done pre-Greenspan. Need it be mentioned that monetary was executed better under Volcker and Martin? We don’t need words, we need to feel the actions of the Fed. That brings me to:

2) Stop trying to support risky asset markets. It is not your job to give equity or corporate bond investors what they want. If you do that, too much liquidity gets injected into the system, creating the financial bubbles of 2000 and 2007-9.

Instead, give the risk markets some negative surprises. Don’t follow Fed funds futures; make them follow you. Show them that you are the boss, not the slave. Let recessions do their good work of clearing out bad debts, and then the economy can grow on a better basis. Be like Martin, and take away the punchbowl when the party gets exciting.

Do these things and guess what? Monetary policy will have more punch. When you make a decision, it will actually do something.

Realize that policy uncertainty is not poison for risk markets. It forces businessmen to avoid marginal ideas — things that only survive when the weather is fair. The accumulated underbrush of bad debts doesn’t keep building up until the eventual fire is impossible to control.

If were going to have fiat money, do it in such a way that bubbles do not develop, which means not caring about the effects of policy on risky asset markets. This might not be popular, but it would be good for the economy in the long run.

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As a final note let me end with one chart from the recent data from FOMC participants:

 

I suspect the FOMC will tighten in December, but remember that the FOMC doesn’t have a roadmap for the environment they are in, and they are acting like slaves to the risky asset markets. Another burp in the markets, and lessening policy accommodation will be further delayed.

 

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David J. Merkel, CFA, FSA — 2010-present, I am working on setting up my own equity asset management shop, tentatively called Aleph Investments. It is possible that I might do a joint venture with someone else if we can do more together than separately. From 2008-2010, I was the Chief Economist and Director of Research of Finacorp Securities. I did a many things for Finacorp, mainly research and analysis on a wide variety of fixed income and equity securities, and trading strategies. Until 2007, I was a senior investment analyst at Hovde Capital, responsible for analysis and valuation of investment opportunities for the FIP funds, particularly of companies in the insurance industry. I also managed the internal profit sharing and charitable endowment monies of the firm. From 2003-2007, I was a leading commentator at the investment website RealMoney.com. Back in 2003, after several years of correspondence, James Cramer invited me to write for the site, and I wrote for RealMoney on equity and bond portfolio management, macroeconomics, derivatives, quantitative strategies, insurance issues, corporate governance, etc. My specialty is looking at the interlinkages in the markets in order to understand individual markets better. I no longer contribute to RealMoney; I scaled it back because my work duties have gotten larger, and I began this blog to develop a distinct voice with a wider distribution. After three-plus year of operation, I believe I have achieved that. Prior to joining Hovde in 2003, I managed corporate bonds for Dwight Asset Management. In 1998, I joined the Mount Washington Investment Group as the Mortgage Bond and Asset Liability manager after working with Provident Mutual, AIG and Pacific Standard Life. My background as a life actuary has given me a different perspective on investing. How do you earn money without taking undue risk? How do you convey ideas about investing while showing a proper level of uncertainty on the likelihood of success? How do the various markets fit together, telling us us a broader story than any single piece? These are the themes that I will deal with in this blog. I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In my spare time, I take care of our eight children with my wonderful wife Ruth.