It’s All In The Multiplier….Kinda like Rabbits, But When They Don’t Multiply Like They Should, What Happens? The Rabbit Population Goes Down, Not Up. Same For The Feds Supply Of Money And Bank Deposits. They’re Not Being Loaned Out So They Can’t Multiply. Until This Changes, Leverage Will Be A Killer Of Wealth!

Posted By on February 27, 2010

“By increasing the volume of their government securities and loans and by lowering Member Bank legal reserve requirements, the Reserve Banks can encourage an increase in the supply of money and bank deposits. They can encourage but, without taking drastic action, they cannot compel. For in the middle of a deep depression just when we want Reserve policy to be most effective, the Member Banks are likely to be timid about buying new investments or making loans. If the Reserve authorities buy government bonds in the open market and thereby swell bank reserves, the banks will not put these funds to work but will simply hold reserves. Result: no 5 for 1, ‘no nothing,’ simply a substitution on the bank’s balance sheet of idle cash for old government bonds.”

–(Samuelson 1948, pp. 353–354)

And that is what has happened. And all those mortgage bonds and other assets the Federal Reserve has purchased? They have been put right back into the Fed by the banks. There has been no money multiplier. In fact, the money multiplier, as measured by the ratio of MO to M1 growth is at its lowest level ever. Look at the graph below:

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What this graph shows, astonishingly, is that a dollar added to the monetary base now has a NEGATIVE multiplier effect. Without showing yet another chart, bank lending has fallen percentagewise the most in 67 years. The actual amount of bank loans is falling each and every quarter, with no signs of a bottom. Consumers are reducing their debt and leverage. Bank loans are being written off at staggering rates. Over 700 banks (I think that is the figure I saw) are officially on watch by the FDIC, with more banks being closed each week.

There is at least $300-400 billion in losses on commercial real estate waiting to be written down. Housing foreclosures are rising and hundreds of billions have yet to be written off. As more families fall into unemployment or underemployment, there will be more writedowns. Is it any wonder that banks are having to shore up their balance sheets and make fewer loans?

With capacity utilization just off all-time lows, why should we expect businesses to borrow to increase capacity? Inventory levels are much lower than two years ago. Businesses no longer need to finance as much inventory. They simply need less.

Dennis Gartman writes:

“Effectively the Fed had become a cash machine rather than a monetary expansion machine. At the end of last year, the multiplier had actually fallen to less than 1.0 and the trend remains downward. If anyone had told us five years ago that the money multiplier would be down to 1.0 we would have laughed. The laugh, however, would have been upon us, for it is there and it is still falling. Hard it shall be to sponsor strong economic growth when no one really wants to take a loan or when few banks want to make a loan. The “game” of banking has been turned upon its head, and the strength of the economy suffers while inflationary pressures (at least for now) remain virtually non-existent.”

John Mauldin
John@FrontLineThoughts.com

 Copyright 2010 John Mauldin. All Rights Reserved http://www.frontlinethoughts.com/learnmore

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