Gross ütleb välja selle, mida tema arvates Föderaalreservi juht Ben Bernanke teab, aga lähtuvalt oma positsioonist välja öelda ei saa. Nimelt tõsiasja, et USA on likviidsuslõksus, kus madalad intressimäärad ja keskpangapoolsed väärtpaberite kokkuostuprogrammid (lühidalt kui QE ehk Quantitative Easing) enam ei erguta ei laenu andma ega võtma, sest tarbijatepoolne nõudlus lihtsalt puudub. Kuigi järgmise nädala oodatavast stimuleerimisest (QE2) võidavad suure tõenäosusega lühiajalises perspektiivis just võlakirjainvestorid, siis pikemas perspektiivis ei ole inflatsiooniline rahapakkumise suurenemine kunagi võlainvestori jaoks soodne. Pigem paistab Föderaalreservi käitumine Gross’ile üha rohkem sarnanevat Ponzi skeemile, kus riigid ei maksa oma võlga kunagi tagasi vaid aina pikendavad ja võtavad uusi laene. Sedasi käitudes eeldatakse, et majandus kasvab kiiremini kui riigi võlaportfell ja seega lihtsalt “kasvatakse” suurenenud laenukohustustest välja.
Arvestades siinkohal suhteliselt tagasihoidlikke majanduskasvuootusi on saanud selgeks, et kasvu pealt suurenenud laenukohustusi riigid teenindada ei suuda. Seetõttu ruttabki appi Föderaalreserv asudes ise riigivõlakirjade ostjate sekka. Nagu öeldud, mõjub selline käitumine esialgu võlakirjahindadele positiivselt, kuid pisut pikemas perspektiivis jõuame olukorda, kus võlakirjahindadel 0%-lähedase tootluse pakkudes ei ole liikuda mujale kui alla ning seda hoogustuva inflatsioonilise surve toel.
Järgnevad mõned väljavõtted Bill Grossi novembrikuu ülevaatest:
The Fed’s second round of QE, therefore, more closely resembles an attempted hypodermic straight to the economy’s heart than its mood elevator counterpart of 2009. If QEII cannot reflate capital markets, if it can’t produce 2% inflation and an assumed reduction of unemployment rates back towards historical levels, then it will be a long, painful slog back to prosperity. Perhaps, as a vocal contingent suggests, our paper-based foundation of wealth deserves to be buried, making a fresh start from admittedly lower levels. The Fed, on Wednesday, however, will decide that it is better to keep the patient on life support with an adrenaline injection and a following morphine drip than to risk its demise and ultimate rebirth in another form.
We at PIMCO join with Ben Bernanke in this diagnosis, but we will tell you, as perhaps he cannot, that the outcome is by no means certain. We are, as even some Fed Governors now publically admit, in a “liquidity trap,” where interest rates or trillions in QEII asset purchases may not stimulate borrowing or lending because consumer demand is just not there. Escaping from a liquidity trap may be impossible, much like light trapped in a black hole. Just ask Japan. Ben Bernanke, however, will try – it is, to be honest, all he can do. He can’t raise or lower taxes, he can’t direct a fiscal thrust of infrastructure spending, he can’t change our educational system, he can’t force the Chinese to revalue their currency – it is all he can do, and as he proceeds, the dual questions of “will it work” and “will it create a bond market bubble” will be answered. We at PIMCO are not sure.
Still, while next Wednesday’s announcement will carry our qualified endorsement, I must admit it may be similar to a Turkey looking forward to a Thanksgiving Day celebration. Bondholders, while immediate beneficiaries, will likely eventually be delivered on a platter to more fortunate celebrants, be they financial asset classes more adaptable to inflation such as stocks or commodities, or perhaps the average American on Main Street who might benefit from a hoped-for rise in job growth or simply a boost in nominal wages, however deceptive the illusion. Cheque writing in the trillions is not a bondholder’s friend; it is in fact inflationary, and, if truth be told, somewhat of a Ponzi scheme. Public debt, actually, has always had a Ponzi-like characteristic. Granted, the US has, at times, paid down its national debt, but there was always the assumption that as long as creditors could be found to roll over existing loans – and buy new ones – the game could keep going forever. Sovereign countries have always implicitly acknowledged that the existing debt would never be paid off because they would “grow” their way out of the apparent predicament, allowing future’s prosperity to continually pay for today’s finance.
Now, however, with growth in doubt, it seems that the Fed has taken Charles Ponzi one step further. Instead of simply paying for maturing debt with receipts from financial sector creditors – banks, insurance companies, surplus reserve nations and investment managers, to name the most significant – the Fed has joined the party itself. Rather than orchestrating the game from on high, it has jumped into the pond with the other swimmers. One and one-half trillion in cheques were written in 2009, and trillions more lie ahead. The Fed, in effect, is telling the markets not to worry about our fiscal deficits, it will be the buyer of first and perhaps last resort. There is no need – as with Charles Ponzi – to find an increasing amount of future gullibles, they will just write the cheque themselves. I ask you: Has there ever been a Ponzi scheme so brazen? There has not. This one is so unique that it requires a new name. I call it a Sammy scheme, in honour of Uncle Sam and the politicians (as well as its citizens) who have brought us to this critical moment in time. It is not a Bernanke scheme, because this is his only alternative and he shares no responsibility for its origin. It is a Sammy scheme – you and I, and the politicians that we elect every two years – deserve all the blame.