June 26, 2013

What does Martin Wolf know we don’t? It would seem very important to know

Sir, Martin Wolf holds that the Fed, and especially Bernanke, must be much more careful because “Careless talk may cost the economy” June 26. He is correct, but perhaps we should remember that careless actions might cost the economy even more, but, then again Wolf seems to know something that I, and may I say we don’t.

For instance, banks can lose fortunes by investing in fixed rate long term bonds when interest rates go up (just look at the chart he provides us with) but, in Martin Wolf’s opinion, “This is purely market-risk, not credit risk. That can be managed by a mix of lower leverage and, if necessary, regulatory forbearance.” And at least I just don’t get it.

Also Wolf holds that “It is unlikely that markets would cease to fund systemically significant financial institutions that have only mark–to market losses on safe haven government bonds”… and which must also mean he believes that the market would go on financing those banks at the previous low rates. And again, I don’t get this either.

And, just in case the market would not want to cooperate with the banks, Wolf argues that “the authorities will need to have plans to address such an eventuality”. What plans? To help banks unload all this I don’t could be worthless paper on some others? Or a Quantitative Easing II, the Fed buying those bonds from banks at way above market value? And so again, I am sorry, but I just don’t get this either.

But when Wolf writes “the likely result of a credible exit [of the US quantitative easing program] will be a shift towards assets in the recovering high-income economies”, that I do understand, even though that would normally go under the name of inflation, and that would most likely also be the result of a not-credible exit or even just a “tapering” down.

Since Martin Wolf seems to know so much more at least I would much appreciate if he were to provide us with further clarifications.

By the way, should not someone who can influence opinions as much as Martin Wolf, need to make a disclosure of his own investment portfolio? Perhaps that information could also help to enlighten us all.