Sunday, July 26, 2009

Contradicting McCulley

It is not a great day for me as I am writing this post which is a rebutal to Paul McCulley, one of the persons from whom I have learned the most. He tends to be too keynesian sometimes, and his last month's commentary is one example:

To be sure, we are presently living in an unusual world, in that the Fed is pegging the Fed funds rate at effectively zero. But it is not stimulating robust demand for credit, or alternatively, it is not stimulating bankers to gin up demand for credit by loosening terms and conditions to prospective borrowers. Actually, reality is probably a bit of both: reluctant borrowers and reluctant lenders.

In my opinion this is completely wrong. The Fed's policies have indeed stimulated robust supply of (risk-free) credit from the bankers and robust demand for credit by the Treasury. I don't have a chart at hand showing of how much of the Treasury's recent borrowing has been financed by the U.S. financial system, but I trust that it's the bulk of it.

Thus, we can categorically say that the near-zero Fed funds rate is not, for the moment, fueling an inflationary pace of aggregate demand growth relative to the economy’s supply potential. And neither is the Fed’s Credit Easing, which is the proximate cause for the explosion of excess reserves in the system. Yes, in the fullness of time, zero Fed funds could conceptually re-ignite borrowers’ and lenders’ mojo. Indeed, that’s precisely the Fed’s objective. And if and when that objective is achieved, the Fed funds rate will need to be hiked to temper the re-ignited mojo, so as to prevent the economy from overheating.
This part is way too keynesian even for McCulley. Kasriel finds a correlation of 0.64 between M2 and inflation, and only 0.08 (!) between the output gap and inflation. Also, look at how inflation flamed up in 1934 while the unemployment rate was in the high teens.

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