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US Fed Party-Poopers

Bipartisan recklessness gets hit in D.C...

The BEST BET of last week was the least popular one, writes Bill Bonner in his Diary of a Rogue Economist.

Buying Wall Street's "fear gauge", the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX.

One "mysterious trader" was reported to have made a multimillion-Dollar bet that volatility (aka price swings) would rise for stocks.

We hope he stuck with it; it should have paid off big time. As it happened, the VIX did not merely go up; it spiked as much as 199%.

What happens next is anyone's guess. But at least we know that the bear is awake...and on the prowl.

Where and when he will strike next waits to be seen.

In the meantime, we shift our attention to more predictable events. (We know they are more predictable because even we saw them coming.)

We refer to the way in which Democrats, Republicans, and the president are colluding to keep the cash flowing – to themselves, their clients, and their zombie pals.

At the end of last week, in a shameful act of bipartisan recklessness, Pelosi, Schumer, Ryan, and Trump got together not only to fund the government, but also to remove further obstacles to budget hikes.

Now, they are setting out for a wild night on the town – top down, four on the floor, a fifth under the seat...and wedding rings in their pockets.

The GOP tax cuts plus the recent bipartisan budget deal amounts to fiscal stimulus of about 1.25% of GDP this year...and 2% of GDP over the next two years.

That's more than the emergency stimulus passed by President George W.Bush in 2008 during what was supposed to be the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. That amounted to just 1% of GDP.

And it's only slightly less, in GDP terms, than the "massive" emergency stimulus package passed by President Obama in 2009.

As far as we know, only one person – Senator Rand Paul – made any effort to stop them.

He warned that the GOP was betraying its roots and its responsibilities – which it clearly was.

Naturally, the GOP leadership and the press jumped all over the poor senator for "wasting time."

So now, it's party time.

"Laissez les bons temps rouler," as they say in New Orleans.

Predicting the "headlines from the future", we look for $2 trillion deficits – 10% of GDP – with a federal debt near $40 trillion by 2027.

But that's the easy part...

The actions of politicians are more or less predictable; the market's reaction is not. Most likely, the unstoppable force of fed borrowing will collide with the immovable object of the bond market.

The feds are already scheduled to borrow more than $1 trillion over the course of the next year – even without a recession.

This coincides with the Fed unloading bonds at a $600 billion annual pace.

Let's see: Much less demand for credit...and much more supply.

And no "Powell Put".

For the moment, the new Fed chief, Jerome Powell, and his governors are staying home, catching up on their Bible reading. The party poopers have forsworn further bond purchases.

So no one is guaranteeing to buy the government's paper.

Most likely, interest rates will rise...and speculators will begin front-running the Fed.

One of the most looney features of the Bernanke-Yellen leadership years was the "transparency" doctrine.

Unlike their predecessor Alan Greenpsan, who famously spoke in mumbo-jumbo, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen telegraphed their intentions to investors.

Unfortunately, neither Fed chief had experience in business...or markets. And they seemed to have no idea how they worked.

Real investing is a win-win proposition: You put your money into a real business. It makes real money. You share in the profits.

Speculating, on the other hand, is win-lose.

Speculators do not buy and sell based on their assessment of the intrinsic value of a given asset. Instead, they look across the table and try to guess what cards other speculators are holding...and what they will do with them.

They look for the "fool at the table" and try to anticipate what dumb mistake he will make.

For the last 10 years, the fool was easily identifiable. It was the Fed.

The US central bank slashed interest rates to near zero to juice up the stock market.

Then under three separate QE programs, it bought more than $4 trillion worth of government bonds at some of the highest prices in history.

And in a breathtaking crescendo of dumbness, it signaled to speculators exactly what it intended to do ahead of time.

Naturally, the other players – hedge funds, Wall Street banks, pension funds, etc. – took advantage.

They bought stocks and bonds knowing they could unload them at higher prices.

Uncertainty is what keeps traders honest. They take chances. But they know their bets could go bad. So they are cautious...and often corrected.

But when the Fed – by far the largest player at the table – tells them in advance what it will do, uncertainty declines.

In this way, the Fed greatly reduced risk. And it was "Party On!" – from excess to more excess, with nothing to stop them.

Now, the Fed – clueless as ever – has once again made its intentions known. It's going to raise interest rates and let the bond pile it built up during QE shrink...removing an important prop from the market.

How long will it take traders to put two and two together now?

Betting against it – by selling stocks and bonds – should be a piece of cake.

New York Times best-selling finance author Bill Bonner founded The Agora, a worldwide community for private researchers and publishers, in 1979. Financial analysts within the group exposed and predicted some of the world's biggest shifts since, starting with the fall of the Soviet Union back in the late 1980s, to the collapse of the Dot Com (2000) and then mortgage finance (2008) bubbles, and the election of President Trump (2016). Sharing his personal thoughts and opinions each day from 1999 in the globally successful Daily Reckoning and then his Diary of a Rogue Economist, Bonner now makes his views and ideas available alongside analysis from a small hand-picked team of specialists through Bonner Private Research.

See full archive of Bill Bonner articles

Please Note: All articles published here are to inform your thinking, not lead it. Only you can decide the best place for your money, and any decision you make will put your money at risk. Information or data included here may have already been overtaken by events – and must be verified elsewhere – should you choose to act on it. Please review our Terms & Conditions for accessing Gold News.

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