Articles tagged with: U.S. Economy

Should We Break Up the Big Banks?

One Federal Reserve official says we should rethink our financial system.

The newest Federal Reserve policymaker just put forth a radical proposal. Neel Kashkari thinks America’s big banks should be broken up, the sooner the better.

This opinion comes from the man who once directed TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program that bailed out giant banks in the Great Recession. Kashkari was assistant secretary of the Treasury at that time. This year, he became president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, two years after running for governor of California.1

On February 16, Kashkari spoke at the Brookings Institution and delivered, as one Bloomberg article put it, “a speech that [read] like a cover letter on a resume sent to the White House c/o Bernie Sanders.” Specifically, he called for “serious consideration” of three ideas.1

The first: “Breaking up large banks into smaller, less connected, less important entities.” The second: “Turning large banks into public utilities by forcing them to hold so much capital that they virtually can’t fail (with regulation akin to that of a nuclear power plant).” The third: “Taxing leverage throughout the financial system to reduce systemic risks wherever they lie.”1

While the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 increased regulation of behemoth banks, Kashkari is hardly satisfied with it. As he told the Washington Post recently, “Policymakers have been telling Congress, or maybe Congress has been telling the American people, that Dodd-Frank has solved too big to fail. And I’m saying I don’t believe it.”2

The above reforms would require the approval of Congress. So Kashkari wants to deliver a proposal to Capitol Hill, with input from “leaders from policy and regulatory institutions [and] the financial industry.” All of these parties would convene to “offer their views and to test one another’s assumptions” pursuant to a bill.1

Is this kind of reform necessary? Many voices on Wall Street contend that Dodd-Frank was actually unnecessary, that the credit crisis of the late 2000s never would have occurred if markets, regulators, and Congress had simply abided by existing rules.1,2,3,4

Others have called for big bank downsizing before this, including some Fed officials. In 2012, the Dallas Fed put out an annual report entitled Choosing the Road to Prosperity: Why We Must End Too Big to Fail – Now. Its president, Richard Fisher, has talked of restructuring large banks into “multiple business entities.” St. Louis Fed president James Bullard once introduced the idea of limiting the size of individual U.S. banks to a percentage of annualized Gross Domestic Product.3,4

Of course, not too long ago the federal government helped make the biggest banks even bigger. As it decided certain financial institutions were “too big to fail” during the credit crisis, it also brokered some deals: Bank of America bought up Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan acquired Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns. JPMorgan and Bank of America both received significant help from TARP as a consequence. Taxpayers made a profit on TARP, and Kashkari says TARP was the right move at the right time. However, he prefers that history not repeat.1,5

The “too big to fail” idea contends that the nation’s largest banks need a federal backstop if threatened with collapse, because their failure would wreck the economy. Its adherents argue that a giant bank is a better bank, providing more services here and in emerging markets, benefiting from economies of scale that make their services cheaper than services of smaller banks. These banks, the thinking goes, deserve a safety net in a catastrophe.1,2,3,4

To other observers, the top U.S. banks have grown frighteningly large. An analysis conducted by SNL Financial last year found that just five banks held almost 45% of the U.S. banking industry’s total assets in 2014, about $7 trillion. To put this in perspective, World Bank data shows the entire 2014 U.S. GDP at $17.4 trillion.6,7

In time, market forces may actually accomplish what Kashkari would prefer to see. With TARP long gone, the largest banks have had to bolster their capital ratios, a potential disadvantage as they compete with smaller banks and online lenders. So new competitors (and new lending and financial services platforms) could soon emerge to take away some of their business.1

Kashkari does not want to wait. With the economy in comparatively good health, “the time has come to move past parochial interests and solve this problem,” Kashkari said in his February 16 speech. “The risks of not doing so are just too great.”5

Mike Moffitt may be reached at Ph# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2016-02-17/let-s-make-sure-neel-kashkari-s-right-before-splitting-up-banks [2/17/16]
2 – washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/17/neel-kashkari-oversaw-the-bailout-of-the-big-banks-now-he-wants-to-break-them-up/ [2/17/16]
3 – business.time.com/2012/03/22/break-up-the-banks-dallas-fed-president-calls-for-the-end-of-too-big-to-fail/ [3/22/12]
4 – bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-16/fed-s-kashkari-floats-breaking-up-big-banks-to-avert-melt-down [2/16/16]
5 – money.cnn.com/2016/02/17/news/economy/neel-kashkari-breaking-up-too-big-to-fail-banks/ [2/17/16]
6 – cnbc.com/2015/04/15/5-biggest-banks-now-own-almost-half-the-industry.html [4/15/15]
7 – data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD [2/18/16]

After QE3 Ends

Can stocks keep their momentum once the Federal Reserve quits easing?

“Easing without end” will finally end.
According to its June policy meeting minutes, the Federal Reserve plans to wrap up QE3 (Quantitative Easing) this fall. Barring economic turbulence, the central bank’s ongoing stimulus effort will conclude on schedule, with a last $15 billion cut to zero being authorized at the October 28-29 Federal Open Market Committee meeting.1,2

So when might the Fed start tightening? As the Fed has pledged to keep short-term interest rates near zero for a “considerable time” after QE3 ends, it might be well into 2015 before that occurs.1

In June, 12 of 16 Federal Reserve policymakers thought the benchmark interest rate would be at 1.5% or lower by the end of 2015, and a majority of FOMC members saw it at 2.5% or less at the end of 2016.3

It may not climb that much in the near term. Reuters recently indicated that most economists felt the central bank would raise the key interest rate to 0.50% during the second half of 2015. In late June, 78% of traders surveyed by Bloomberg News saw the first rate hike in several years coming by September of next year.4,5

Are the markets ready to stand on their own? Quantitative easing has powered this bull market, and stocks haven’t been the sole beneficiary. Today, almost all asset classes are trading at prices that are historically high relative to fundamentals.

Some research from Capital Economics is worth mentioning: since 1970, stocks have gained an average of more than 11% in 21-month windows in which the Fed greenlighted successive rate hikes. Bears could argue that “this time is different” and that stocks can’t possibly push higher in the absence of easing – but then again, this bull market has shattered many expectations.6

What if we get a “new neutral”? In 2009, legendary bond manager Bill Gross forecast a “new normal” for the economy: a long limp back from the Great Recession marked by years of slow growth. While Gross has been staggeringly wrong about some major market calls of late, his take on the post-recession economy wasn’t too far off. From 2010-13, annualized U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaged 2.3%, pretty poor versus the 3.7% it averaged from the 1950s through the 1990s.3

Gross now sees a “new neutral” coming: short-term interest rates of 2% or less through 2020. Some other prominent economists and Wall Street professionals hold roughly the same view, and are reminding the public that the current interest rate environment is closer to historical norms than many perceive. As Prudential investment strategist Robert Tipp told the Los Angeles Times recently, “People who are looking for higher inflation and higher interest rates are fighting the last war.” Lawrence Summers, the former White House economic advisor, believes that the U.S. economy could even fall prey to “secular stagnation” and become a replica of Japan’s economy in the 1990s.3

If short-term rates do reach 2.5% by the end of 2016 as some Fed officials think, that would hardly approach where they were prior to the recession. In September 2007, the benchmark interest rate was at 5.25%.3

What will the Fed do with all that housing debt? The central bank now holds more than $1.6 trillion worth of mortgage-linked securities. In 2011, Ben Bernanke announced a strategy to simply let them mature so that the Fed’s bond portfolio could be slowly reduced, with some of the mortgage-linked securities also being sold. Two years later, the strategy was modified as a majority of Fed policymakers grew reluctant to sell those securities. In May, New York Fed president William Dudley called for continued reinvestment of the maturing debt even if interest rates rise.7

Bloomberg News recently polled more than 50 economists on this topic: 49% thought the Fed would stop reinvesting debt in 2015, 28% said 2016, and 25% saw the reinvestment going on for several years. As for the Treasuries the Fed has bought, 69% of the economists surveyed thought they would never be sold; 24% believed the Fed might start selling them in 2016.7

Monetary policy must normalize at some point. The jobless rate was at 6.1% in June, 0.3% away from estimates of full employment. The Consumer Price Index shows annualized inflation at 2.1% in its latest reading. These numbers are roughly in line with the Fed’s targets and signal an economy ready to stand on its own. Hopefully, the stock market will be able to continue its advance even as things tighten.6

Mike Moffit may be reached at phone# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – marketwatch.com/story/fed-plans-to-end-bond-purchases-in-october-2014-07-09 [7/9/14]
2 – telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/10957878/US-Federal-Reserve-on-course-to-end-QE3-in-October.html [7/9/14]
3 – latimes.com/business/la-fi-interest-rates-20140706-story.html#page=1 [7/6/14]
4 – reuters.com/article/2014/06/17/us-economy-poll-usa-idUSKBN0ES1RD20140617 [6/17/14]
5 – bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-07/treasuries-fall-after-goldman-sachs-brings-forward-fed-forecast.html [7/7/14]
6 – cbsnews.com/news/will-the-fed-rate-hikes-rattle-the-market/ [7/10/14]
7 – bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-17/fed-will-raise-rates-faster-than-investors-expect-survey-shows.html [6/17/14]