Reprinted from Paul Craig Roberts
A dangerous new trend is the successful manipulation of the financial markets by the Federal Reserve, other central banks, private banks, and the US Treasury. The Federal Reserve reduced real interest rates on US government debt obligations first to zero and then pushed real interest rates into negative territory. Today the government charges you for the privilege of purchasing its bonds.
People pay to park their money in Treasury debt obligations, because they do not trust the banks and they know that the government can print the money to pay off the bonds. Today Treasury bond investors pay a fee in order to guarantee that they will receive the nominal face value (minus the fee) of their investment in government debt instruments.
The fee is paid in a premium, which raises the cost of the debt instrument above its face value and is paid again in accepting a negative rate of return, as the interest rate is less than the inflation rate.
Think about this for a minute. Allegedly the US is experiencing economic recovery. Normally with rising economic activity, interest rates rise as consumers and investors bid for credit. But not in this "recovery."
Normally an economic recovery produces rising consumer spending, rising profits, and more investment. But what we experience is flat and declining consumer spending as jobs are offshored and retail stores close. Profits result from labor cost savings from employee layoffs.
The stock market is high because corporations are the biggest purchases of stock. Buying back their own stock supports or raises the share price, enabling executives and boards to sell their shares or cash in their options at a profitable price. The cash that Quantitative Easing has given to the mega-banks leaves ample room for speculating in stocks, thus pushing up the price despite the absence of fundamentals that would support a rising stock market.
In other words, in America today there are no free financial markets. The markets are rigged by the Federal Reserve's Quantitative Easing, by gold price manipulation, by the Treasury's Plunge Protection Team and Exchange Stabilization Fund, and by the big private banks.
Allegedly, QE is over, but it is not. The Fed intends to roll over the interest and principle from its bloated $4.5 trillion bond portfolio into purchases of more bonds, and the banks intend to fill in the gaps by using the $2.6 trillion in their cash on deposit with the Fed to purchase bonds. QE has morphed, not ended. The money the Fed paid the banks for bonds will now be used by the banks to support the bond price by purchasing bonds.
Normally when massive amounts of debt and money are created the currency collapses, but the dollar has been strengthening. The dollar gains strength from the rigging of the gold price in the futures market. The Federal Reserve's agents, the bullion banks, print paper futures contracts representing many tonnes of gold and dump them them into the market during periods of light or nonexistent trading. This drives down the gold price despite rising demand for the physical metal. This manipulation is done in order to counteract the effect of the expansion of money and debt on the dollar's exchange value. A declining dollar price of gold makes the dollar look strong.
The dollar also gains the appearance of strength from debt monetization by the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank. The Bank of Japan's Quantitative Easing program is even larger than the Fed's. Even Switzerland is rigging the price of the Swiss franc. Since all currencies are inflating, the dollar does not decline in exchange value.
As Japan is Washington's vassal, it is conceivable that some of the money being printed by the Bank of Japan will be used to purchase US Treasuries, thus taking the place along with purchases by the large US banks of the Fed's QE.
The large private US and UK banks are also manipulating markets hand over fist. Remember the scandal over the banks fixing the LIBOR rate (the London Interbank Borrowing Rate) and the opening gold price on the London exchange. Now the banks have been caught rigging currency markets with algorithms developed to manipulate foreign exchange markets.
When the banks get caught in felonies, they avoid prosecution by paying a fine. You try doing that.
The government even manipulates economic statistics in order to paint a rosy economic picture that sustains economic confidence. GDP growth is exaggerated by understating inflation. High unemployment is swept under the table by not counting discouraged workers as unemployed. We are told we are enjoying economic recovery and have an improving housing market. Yet the facts are that almost half of 25-year-old Americans have been forced to return to live with their parents, and 30% of 30-year-olds are back with their parents. Since 2006 the home ownership rate of 30-year-old Americans has collapsed.
The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act during the Clinton regime allowed the big banks to gamble with their depositors' money. The Dodd-Frank Act tried to stop some of this by requiring the banks-turned-gambling-casinos to carry on their gambling in subsidiaries with no access to deposits in the depository institution. If the banks gamble with depositors' money, the banks' losses are covered by FDIC, and in the case of bank failure, bail-in provisions could give the banks access to depositors' funds. With the banks still protected by being "too big to fail," whether Dodd-Frank would succeed in protecting depositors when a subsidiary's failure pulls down the entire bank is unclear.
The sharp practices in which banks engage today are risky. Why gamble with their own money if they can gamble with depositors' money? The banks led by Citigroup have lobbied hard to overturn the provision in Dodd-Frank that puts depositors' money out of their reach as backup for certain types of troubled financial instruments, with apparently only Senator Elizabeth Warren and a few others opposing them. Senator Warren is outgunned as Citigroup controls the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve.