Friday, 19 June 2009

Why the wind is cold

As an update to the piece below, note this post from Brad DeLong about the worrying state of the US economy.

The money shot is this:

My third--unrelated--point is that the policy innovations of the past year have created a potentially dangerous weakness in the Federal Reserve system. The Federal Reserve's balance sheet has more than doubled over the past year, as it has acquired an enormous and bizarre menagerie of assets. On the liability side, it has funded this acquisition by expanding the monetary base, and has increased private-sector willingness to hold this monetary base by paying interest on reserves. This has added a fourth motive--profit--to the three traditional motives for holding reserve deposits at the Fed: the transactions demand, the emergency liquidity demand, and the speculative demand.

As long as the dollar remains the safest currency in the world, as long as the dollar remains the linchpin of the global financial system, there is no problem in the Federal Reserve's funding by what is essentially overnight borrowing the expansion of its balance sheet and the purchase of private securities that will vary up or down in market price with an eye toward holding them to maturity.

However, at some future time the dollar will cease to be the linchpin of the world financial system, in which case the Federal Reserve's financing its balance sheet via overnight borrowing will leave it vulnerable to the mother of all bank runs. It would be very good to fix this now: to give the Federal Reserve now the option to borrow not in what are essentially demand but rather in time deposits--to grant the Federal Reserve the power to issue its own bonds. This diminishes the chance of a great financial crisis in 2050 or so, with no downside that I can see.

I'd be really dubious about any asset backed by the US government and denominated in dollars right about now. If I had any investments with which to be dubious about.

1 comment:

brad said...

But extremely low Treasury interest rates and the still-high value of the dollar men that the market doesn't share your opinion. I do confess it is a mystery,,,